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Natural Resources Defense Council v. Energy Research & Dev. Admin.

Citation: 8 ELR 20415
No. No. 76-1691, 451 F. Supp. 1245/(D.D.C., 05/08/1978)

In a suit challenging the Energy Research and Development Administration's (ERDA's) nuclear waste management program, the court grants defendants' motion for summary judgment on counts I and III of the complaint, which allege that defendants must obtain a license from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) before constructing several radioactive waste storage tanks, and grants plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment as to count II, alleging violations of the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA). At the outset, the court rejects defendants' claim that jurisdiction over all nuclear licensing cases lies only in the courts of appeals under 42 U.S.C. § 2239 and 28 U.S.C. § 2342, and accordingly it denies defendants' motions for dismissal. Defendants' motion for summary judgment on these issues, however, is granted. The Energy Reorganization Act of 1974 does not mandate NRC issuance of a license for the construction of waste storage facilities unless those facilities are expressly intended to provide long-term storage. While the tanks in question may be used for more than 20 years, they are clearly not intended to provide the kind of security implied by the Act's use of the phrase "long-term." With respect to the NEPA issues, plaintiffs are correct in their contention that environmental impact statements (EISs) must be prepared for each specific storage facility in addition to the two EISs already prepared on the waste management program as a whole. The programmatic statements inadequately address the questions of alternatives to the new facilities, the short- versus long-term tradeoffs which will result, and irretrievable commitments of resources. The court therefore orders defendant ERDA to file with the court within 30 days a timetable for the preparation of site-specific EISs which discuss the long- and short-term planning implications of the projects and which either discuss alternatives to the projects or explain why such a discussion is unwarranted.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Ronald J. Wilson, Barbara B. Graham
Natural Resources Defense Council
810 18th St. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 628-3160

John Roger Beers, Helen M. Linker
Natural Resources Defense Council
2345 Yale St., Palo Alto CA 94306
(415) 327-1080

Counsel for Defendants
William M. Cohen
Land and Natural Resources Division
Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 739-2775