Document Type



This Comment addresses whether California’s Vessel Fuel Rules, which require all foreign and U.S. flagged vessels traveling within twenty-four miles of California's coastline to use low-sulfur content fuels, is preempted by the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. More specifically, this Comment addresses whether the Clean Air Act, the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL), the Submerged Lands Act, and/or general principles of federal maritime law prohibit the California Air Resources Board from enforcing its Vessel Fuel Rules against vessels engaged in maritime commerce in navigable waters, particularly waters beyond the three-mile band beyond the California coastline which marks the state's territorial boundary. This Comment argues that the Clean Air Act and MARPOL may preempt California’s regulations, but that the Submerged Lands Act does not. It further proposes that the Submerged Lands Act informs the analysis of whether general principles of maritime law - a federal common law that prohibits state regulation from interfering with the uniformity of federal maritime law in its interstate and international relations - preempt the Vessel Fuel Rules. It concludes that the Rules are likely preempted by the general maritime law because they substantially interfere with the federal interest in a uniform maritime law. This Comment argues that the Ninth Circuit’s panel decision in Pacific Merchant Shipping Association v. Goldstene, 639 F.3d 1154 (9th Cir. 2011), erred by affording California’s regulations a presumption against preemption because such a presumption is not generally afforded where state regulations bear upon maritime commerce. This Comment provides a comprehensive lens through which to view the application of case precedent and federal maritime law principles to state environmental regulations where such regulations are enforced in navigable waters beyond state boundaries.