Zack Smith


Federal and state attempts to regulate recovery for oil spill damages often go together as well as oil and water. Given the recent large-scale and well-publicized Deepwater Horizon oil spill, the federal-state relationship in regulating oil spill recovery has once again come to the forefront after spending nearly two decades on the backburner since the Exxon Valdez incident in 1989. However, the United States District Court for the Middle District of Florida (Middle District) was forced to deal with this federal-state relationship long before either of these events occurred. In 1971, the Middle District took up the case of American Waterways Operators, Inc. v. Askew, where it was asked by a conglomerate of shipping interests to consider whether the Florida Oil Spill Prevention and Pollution Control Act (Florida Act) was preempted by the federal Water Quality Improvement Act (Federal Act). In this instance, a three-judge panel of the Middle District held that the Florida Act was preempted and that Florida's state statute was unconstitutional under Article III, Section 2, Clause 1 of the United States Constitution because the states surrendered to the federal government all power to enact substantive legislation relating to admiralty and maritime matters.