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Skull Valley Band of Goshute Indians v. Nielson

ELR Citation: 34 ELR 20064
Nos. No. 02-4149, (10th Cir., 08/25/2004)

The Tenth Circuit affirmed a district court decision that Utah's statutes regulating the storage and transportation of spent nuclear fuel are preempted by federal law. Contrary to the state's arguments, the plaintiffs who challenge the statutes—a consortium of utility companies and a Native American tribe—have standing to bring this lawsuit and the case is ripe for review. As for the merits, the state statutes are preempted by federal law. The state's licensing provisions, county planning provisions, and road provisions are preempted because they address matters of radiological safety that are addressed by federal law and that are the exclusive province of the federal government. In addition, the state's unfunded liability provisions are preempted. The fact that there may be gaps in the Price-Anderson Act's indemnification and insurance scheme does not establish that states are free to fill those gaps, as Utah has done here. And Utah's statute abolishing limited liability is preempted because it frustrates the objectives of federal law.