Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Appalachian States Low-Level Radioactive Waste Comm'n v. O'Leary

ELR Citation: 26 ELR 21632
Nos. 95-7382, 93 F.3d 103/(3d Cir., 08/20/1996) rev'd

The court upholds the Secretary of Energy's interpretation of a provision of the Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendments Act that entitles states and regional radioactive-waste disposal compacts to a rebate of their waste-disposal surcharges if they provide for the disposal of "all" low-level radioactive waste generated within the state or compact by January 1, 1993. The Secretary interpreted "all" waste as meaning all waste generated during the 36-month period from January 1, 1993, to January 1, 1996. The court first holds that given the lack of an explicit statutory definition of "all," the plain meaning of the statute is ambiguous. "All" may refer to quantity or duration. The court next holds that the legislative history and purpose of the Act support the Secretary's interpretation that "all" includes a durational aspect. The Act's goal of encouraging the construction of new facilities, manifested in its series of progressive milestones and system of surcharges, reveals Congress' desire for a long-term solution. Further, the Act requires states and compacts that miss the deadline to make monthly payments to waste generators equal to 1/36 of the total amount of surcharges collected from them until the state or compact meets the requirement. Under that provision, such a state or compact receives a rebate proportional to the amount of time during the 36-month period that it met the requirement. The court thus holds that the Secretary's interpretation bears a fair relationship to the language of the statute, reflects the views of those who sought its enactment, and matches the purpose they articulated. Thus, because plaintiff regional compact had provided for the disposal of its radioactive waste for only the 18 months following January 1, 1993, the Secretary properly gave the compact only one-half the maximum rebate. The court next holds that the interpretation was an interpretive rule. It was therefore exempt from notice-and-comment procedures under the Administrative Procedure Act, and because it did not alter existing rights or obligations, had no prohibited retroactive impact.

Counsel for Appellant
Michael S. Raab
Environment and Natural Resources Division
U.S. Department of Justice, Washington DC 20530
(202) 514-2000

Counsel for Appellee
John W. Carroll
Pepper, Hamilton & Scheetz
200 One Keystone Plaza
N. Front & Market Sts., Harrisburg PA 17108
(717) 255-1155

Before: BECKER, ROTH and MCKEE, Circuit Judges.