Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren

Summarized by:

  • Court: United States Supreme Court
  • Area(s) of Law: Constitutional Law
  • Date Filed: June 17, 2019
  • Case #: 16–1275
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: GORSUCH, J., announced the judgment of the Court and delivered an opinion, in which THOMAS and KAVANAUGH, JJ., joined. GINSBURG, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, in which SOTOMAYOR and KAGAN, JJ., joined. ROBERTS, C. J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BREYER and ALITO, JJ., joined.
  • Full Text Opinion

The Atomic Energy Act does not preempt state prohibitions on uranium mining on private lands within state borders.

Petitioner desired to mine uranium in Virginia despite state law prohibiting such mining. As a result, Petitioner filed suit alleging that the federal Atomic Energy Act (AEA) preempted state laws banning uranium mining under the Constitution’s Supremacy Clause. Petitioner argued that the AEA gives the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) sole regulatory power over uranium mining and that the NRC’s lack of regulation with respect to uranium mining entitled Petitioner to mine uranium in states such as Virginia. The district court and Fourth Circuit rejected Petitioner’s argument, holding that nothing in the AEA suggested that Congress intended to strip states of the power to regulate mining on private lands within their borders. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that the AEA does not preempt state prohibitions on uranium mining on private lands within state borders. The Court reasoned that the AEA establishes that the NRC’s regulatory power arises after the removal of uranium from nature unless uranium mining occurs on federal lands, meaning that uranium mining on state lands lies outside the NRC’s jurisdiction. The Court also noted that later amendments and prior decisions established that 42 U. S. C. § 2021(k) does not alter pre-existing state authority outside the NRC’s jurisdiction. AFFIRMED.

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