New Cert Petition from 9th Circuit – Submerged Lands Act – Pacific Merchant Shipping Association v. James Goldstene

Among the cases in my queue awaiting my analysis is Pacific Merchant Shipping Association v. Goldstene, which can be downloaded here. It relates to the Submerged Lands Act and whether it preempts state regulation of marine fuels. Not a simple topic to blog about, hence Apparently a Petition for a Writ of Certiorari was filed and it made SCOTUSBLOG's Petition of the Day. What are the boundaries of State regulation? This case involves the State of California's attempt to regulate the types of fuels ships use off the California coast. There was an earlier iteration of the case, posted in 2008, here where California tried to regulate ship emissions offshore. The Ninth Circuit found those regulations to be preempted by the Clean Air Act. In response, in 2009, the California Air Resources Board passed regulations requiring ocean-going vessels to use cleaner marine fuels. The requirement applied within 24 nautical miles of the state's shoreline. [My federalism alarm bell just started ringing.] The Pacific Merchant Shipping Association challenged the regulations and lost its motion for summary judgment and appealed. The Ninth Circuit affirmed the denial of summary judgment and PMSA is now seeking Supreme Court review. Acknowledging that when federal statutes collide with the overarching federalism and preemption principles embodied in the Constitution, it is a tough call: This appeal presents the Court with a highly unusual and challenging set of circumstances. Given the circumstances, we do believe that the regulatory scheme at issue here pushes a state's legal authority to its very limits, although the state had clear justifications for doing so. More generally, we must take into account such fundamental considerations as, on the one hand, the supremacy of federal law, the various limitations on state regulations arising out of the dormant Commerce Clause and general maritime law preemption doctrines, and the federal government's unquestioned authority over this nation's relations with foreign countries, and, on the other hand, the sovereign police powers retained by California allowing the state to adopt a wide range of laws in order to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its own residents. I'll end now and digest this case more as the briefs come in.

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