Natural Resources Defense Council v. NRC
Citation: 30 ELR 20771
No. No. 99-1383, 216 F.3d 1180/(D.C. Cir., 07/14/2000)
The court holds that the Nuclear Regulatory Commission's (NRC's) regulatory definition of the term "meeting" for purposes of the Government in the Sunshine Act neither conflicts with nor undermines the Sunshine Act. An environmental group alleged that the NRC's regulation is fundamentally inconsistent with both the language and legislative history of the Sunshine Act. The court first holds that the NRC's definition neither can be contrary to the Sunshine Act nor can it fatally undermine it. The U.S. Supreme Court held in Federal Communications Comm'n v. ITT World Communications, Inc., 466 U.S. 463 (1984), that a "meeting" under the Sunshine Act contemplates discussions that effectively predetermine official actions, and such discussions must be sufficiently focused on discrete proposals or issues as to cause or to be likely to cause the individual participating members to form reasonably firm positions regarding matters pending or likely to arise before the agency. This is the definition that the NRC subsequently adopted as its own definition of "meeting." Further, ITT is not limited to instances where agency members have not been formally delegated authority to take official action, and the decision's definition of "meeting" was not dictum. Rather, the Supreme Court instructed that the definition now adopted by the NRC is the one that Congress itself intended. Last, the court of appeals holds that it is barred from imposing the additional procedural requirements that the group seeks on non-Sunshine Act discussions. The Sunshine Act does not authorize the court to impose additional procedures of conduct of administrative rather than judicial proceedings.
Counsel for Petitioners
David E. Adelman
Meyer & Glitzenstein
1601 Connecticut Ave. NW, Ste. 450, Washington DC 20009
Counsel for Respondents
Wendy M. Keats
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
Before Edwards and Randolph, JJ.