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Oil Pollution/OPA 90

The following are digests and case links to Circuit Court Admiralty Cases that have as an issue oil pollution/OPA 90:

South Port Marine v. Gulf Oil Ltd.
First Circuit Court of Appeals
December 7, 2000

Admiralty Jurisdiction: plaintiff's floating docks that were damaged by an oil spill were extensions of the land and hence a tort that causes damage to them does not occur wholly on navigable waters and therefore constitutes an action at law, rather than in admiralty; OPA 90/Jury Trial: although the Oil Pollution Act (OPA) does not create a statutory right to a jury trial, plaintiff has a Seventh Amendment right to a jury trial of its claims under the Act since they are analogous to causes of action at common law, rather than causes of action in admiralty; Punitive Damages: punitive damages are not available under OPA for marine pollution claims, nor are they available under the general maritime law in view of the enactment of OPA, which has supplanted the existing maritime law of punitive damages in cases of marine pollution.

Unocal Co. v. United States
Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals
August 7, 2000

Oil Pollution Act of 1990 ("OPA 90"): Unocal, the owner of an oil pipeline that ruptured causing contamination of a local creek and river, was a responsible party under the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 and could state a complete defense to the strict liability of the Act only if it could establish that (1) the discharge was caused solely by the act or omission of a third party; (2) the responsible party exercised due care with respect to the pipeline; and (3) the responsible party took precautions against foreseeable acts or omissions of third parties and the foreseeable consequences of those acts or omissions; the jury's finding that Unocal had established its defense to strict liability was supported by substantial evidence, thus the verdict awarding Unocal reimbursement of the clean-up costs against the responsible third parties was upheld.

In re Bluewater Network & Ocean Advocates
District of Columbia Circuit Court of Appeals
December 22, 2000

Coast Guard Regulation/OPA 90: sections 4110(a) and (b) of OPA 90 indisputably command the Coast Guard to establish compliance standards and use requirements for tank level and pressure monitoring ("TLPM") devices by August 1991; because of this "clear statutory mandate, a deadline nine-years ignored, and an agency that has admitted its continuing recalcitrance," the Coast Guard was directed to undertake prompt rulemaking with respect to TLPM devices; the Coast Guard is not required to initiate rulemaking pursuant to section 4116(c) of OPA 90 to define waters other than Prince William Sound ("other waters") over which single-hulled tankers must be escorted by at least two towing vessels since the section places no clear and mandatory duty on the Coast Guard to undertake "other waters" rulemaking.

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