Document Type

Case Note


In Fednav, Ltd. v. Chester, the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit upheld the dismissal of a constitutional challenge to the Michigan Ballast Water Statute (MBWS). By unanimously affirming the decision of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, the Fednav Court not only declined to invalidate state laws protecting Michigan’s waters from aquatic nuisance species (ANS), but also rejected claims that the MBWS should be preempted by broad federal regulation. Through its Fednav decision, the Sixth Circuit iterated that Michigan may still play a vital role in protecting its ecological and economic interests. ANS pose a serious threat to the ecological well-being of Michigan’s waters and the state’s economic health. Accordingly, ANS control measures must be comprehensive, particularly in the Great Lakes region, since incomplete measures are unlikely to provide adequate protection. While federal laws clearly preempt those of a state when conflicts arise, states may nonetheless contribute to achieving the common goal of protecting the state’s environmental and economic interests. Furthermore, states are obligated by a duty to their citizens’ health and economic security to enact state-centric legislation when Congress leaves loopholes in its regulatory scheme. As such, the pertinent legal question addressed in this Note is whether Fednav struck an appropriate balance between federal and state regulatory interests in allowing the MBWS to stand. This Note initially considers the federal attempts to regulate ANS in the Great Lakes along with the evolution of overlapping federal and state regulatory schemes for managing ANS. After analyzing the Sixth Circuit’s reasoning in Fednav, this Note briefly explains that the Fednav Court appropriately recognized Congress’ intent to balance the supremacy of federal law with Michigan’s duty to implement legislation that protects its ecological and economic interests. Finally, this Note considers Fednav in the broader context of federal-state cooperation on issues such as ballast water regulation and ANS. It posits that the key issue is how to best manage overlapping state and federal control, then proposes a solution for implementing coterminous federal and state regulations.



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