Emory Law Journal


Jennifer Lamb


Catastrophic oil spills are some of the most visible and devastating contemporary environmental disasters. Unfortunately, a loophole in the Clean Water Act has significant potential to limit the United States¿s ability to prosecute those who spill oil. This Comment argues that the application of statutory preclusion to Oil Pollution Act cases is contrary to the original intent of the Congress in drafting the statutory preclusion provision of the Clean Water Act and subsequent Oil Pollution Act amendments. Further, applying statutory preclusion to oil pollution cases undermines effective enforcement. This Comment proposes that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should take a leadership role by arguing that its interpretation of the statutory preclusion provision in its regulations should be entitled to deference under Chevron v. National Resource Defense Council. Providing Chevron deference to the EPA¿s prosecutorial determinations will resolve a three-way split among the federal circuits. A uniform rule will also facilitate effective relationships under cooperative federalism for the benefit of the environment.