The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that the Oil Pollution Act of 1990 (OPA 90) applies to oil spills into waters that flow into navigable waters. In the instant case, oil from the bankrupt’s well was discharged into a drainage ditch and then flowed into a bayou. The bayou flows into a canal that eventually flows into the Gulf of Mexico, a navigable water of the United States. After the oil spill, the well owner declared bankruptcy and then opposed the government’s attempt to collect the clean-up costs, contending that the oil did not enter the navigable waters and, thus, OPA 90 was not applicable. The court held that the bayou is sufficiently adjacent to an open body of navigable water to invoke the jurisdiction of the Oil Pollution Act. In the Matter of Needham, No. 02-30217 (5th Cir., December 16, 2003).
(Source: HK Law)