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United States v. Standard Oil Co., 384 U.S. 224 (1966)

United States v. Standard Oil Co.

No. 291

Argued January 25, 1966

Decided May 23, 1966

384 U.S. 224


Appellant was indicted for discharging gasoline into navigable waters in violation of the proscription in § 13 of the Rivers and Harbors Act against discharge therein of "any refuse matter of any kind or description." The District Court dismissed the indictment on the ground that "refuse matter" does not include commercially valuable material.

Held: the discharge of commercially valuable gasoline into navigable waters is encompassed by § 13 of the Act. Pp. 384 U. S. 225-230. Pp. 384 U. S. 225-230.

(a) Petroleum products, whether useable or not, when discharged into navigable waters constitute a menace to navigation and pollute rivers and harbors. P. 384 U. S. 226.

(b) The Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899 was a consolidation of prior acts which enumerated various pollutants and impediments to navigation, drawing no distinction between valuable and valueless substances; the term "refuse matter" in the present Act is a shorthand substitute for the exhaustive list of substances found in the earlier Acts. Pp. 384 U. S. 226-229.

(c) The word "refuse" includes all foreign substances and pollutants except, as provided in § 13, those "flowing from streets and sewers and passing therefrom in a liquid state" into the watercourse. P. 384 U. S. 230.


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