Ventura County v. Gulf Oil Corp.
601 F.2d 1080, aff'd without opinion, 445 U.S. 947 (1980)
The Bureau of Land Management
(BLM) gave Gulf Oil a lease to explore for oil in a National Forest
located in Ventura County.
The lease was approved by a
variety of Federal agencies, and the conditions for giving leases were
contained in the Mineral Leasing Act
(30 U.S.C. §185).
When Gulf Oil started to
drill, Ventura sued for an injunction.
Ventura had a zoning
ordinance that zoned the area as "open space." Ventura argued
that in order to satisfy the zoning ordinance, Gulf would need to get a
permit from the county planning commission.
Gulf did not have a permit.
The Trial Court found for Gulf
Oil. Ventura appealed.
Gulf Oil argued that the BLM
lease from the Federal government, preempted any local laws.
Ventura argued that Congress
did not have the power under the Property Clause to preempt local laws.
Ventura argued that even if
Congress did have the power, it only applies when Congress explicitly
intends to preempt local laws, or there is a conflict between local laws
and the Federal law, and the only way to resolve the conflict is to
preempt the local law.
Since there's no conflict,
why not force Gulf oil to get a Federal lease and a zoning permit?
The Appellate Court affirmed.
The Appellate Court found
that the Property Clause and the Supremacy
Clause give Congress the power to preempt Federal laws.
See Kleppe v. New Mexico (426 U.S. 529 (1976)).
The Court found that there
were extensive environmental requirements already written into the lease.
Since Ventura's zoning restrictions were really just an environmental
requirement, there was a direct conflict between the lease and the zoning
Basically, if the lease
required Gulf Oil to take environmental precautions A, B, and C, then
Ventura was preempted from also requiring Gulf Oil to do D, E, and F.
That's known as implied
preemption, and basically means that
the Federal government has so extensively regulated that there is no
room for State regulation.
The Court noted that Gulf
Oil is already required to meet Federal environmental laws (like the National
Environmental Policy Act (NEPA)), and if there is a problem, Ventura could
use those laws to get a remedy.
Allowing Ventura to require
permits would effectively give them veto power over decisions the
Federal government makes.
Compare this case to California
Coastal Commission v. Granite Rock Co.
(480 U.S. 572 (1987)), where the US Supreme Court found that was no such
thing as a implied preemption. In order to be preempted a local law and a Federal law must directly
conflict (aka an express preemption).