Partner Daniel Deeb was quoted on the U.S. Supreme Court ruling upholding a previous U.S. Court of Appeals rejection of Virginia Uranium’s argument that the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) gives the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) exclusive power to regulate uranium milling and tailings-management activities and therefore preempts state uranium mining laws.
Six judges affirmed the previous court’s ruling (half though a concurring opinion), with three dissenting. Dan said that the main difference in the opinions appeared to center on the extent to which they believed courts should assess the state legislative purpose when considering preemption under the AEA.
"The majority found that the AEA simply does not express preemption of state uranium mining laws and advised of the perils of trying to assess any hidden state legislative purpose when a state law, such as that now at issue, is far removed from core NRC powers," he said.
Dan added that the dissenting judges found the Virginia statute to be preempted by the AEA under the rationale of prior U.S. Supreme Court precedent which they believe warranted consideration of the state’s legislative intent.
"The analysis of Justice Roberts' dissent is perhaps summed up by his quip: 'Under the rule adopted by the majority, so long as a state is not boneheaded enough to express its real purpose in the statute, the state will have free reign to subvert Congress's judgement on nuclear safety'," he said.
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