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Pacific Legal Found. v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Dev. Comm'n

Citation: 9 ELR 20149
No. No. 78-711-E, 472 F. Supp. 191/12 ERC 1899/(S.D. Cal., 03/06/1979)

The court grants plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment and declares a California statute which conditions state certification of nuclear power plants on federal approval of nuclear waste disposal technology represents an unconstitutional invasion of an area of regulation preempted by federal law. In a preliminary ruling, the court determines that plaintiffs' challenges to two companion measures have been rendered moot by decisions of the defendant Commission which in effect make them inapplicable to any presently proposed reactors. The court also finds that at least one of the plaintiffs has established standing to maintain this action by demonstrating a particularized injury, loss of his job, and a causal connection to the state certification statute. The issue of the state law's constitutionality is ripe for adjudication because the statute has imposed a de facto moratorium upon nuclear development in California. Proceeding to the central issue, the court rules that an examination of the Atomic Energy Act and the relevant case law compels the conclusion that Congress has implicitly foreclosed state legislation on the subject of nuclear waste disposal. In rejecting defendants' argument that the state law was enacted for economic purposes rather than to protect against radiation hazards, the court holds that it must look to the effect of the state law on the sphere of exclusive regulation rather than simply accept the legislative purpose articulated by the state. The court rules further that even if the Atomic Energy Act did not completely bar state regulation of such matters, the challenged law would nonetheless be void because it stands as an obstacle to the accomplishment of the federal policy of fostering the development, use, and control of atomic energy. The fact that the state statute would seriously disrupt the national policy for the development of nuclear power thus serves as a second ground for finding it to be preempted.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Ronald A. Zumbrun, Raymond M. Momboisse, Lawrence P. Jones, Robin L. Rivett
Pacific Legal Foundation
455 Capitol Mall, Suite 465, Sacramento CA 95814
(916) 444-0154

Counsel for Defendants
William M. Chamberlain, General Counsel; Mark J. Urban, Kathryn Burkett Dickson, Deputy General Counsels
California Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission
1111 Howe Ave., Sacramento CA 95825
(916) 920-6257

Antonia Rossmann, Special Counsel
360 Pine Street, San Francisco CA 94104
(415) 421-8844

Richard M. Mosk, Marilyn E. Levine
Mitchell, Silberberg & Knupp
1800 Century Park East, Suite 800, Los Angeles CA 90067
(213) 553-5000