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National Ass'n of Regulatory Utility Commissioners v. United States Department of Energy

ELR Citation: 42 ELR 20120
Nos. Nos. 11-1066, -1068, (D.C. Cir., 06/01/2012)

The D.C. Circuit held that the DOE Secretary's 2010 determination that there was no basis for suspending, or otherwise adjusting, annual fees collected from nuclear power plant owners and operators following the government's decision to discontinue its development of Yucca Mountain violated the Nuclear Waste Policy Act. The Act requires the Secretary to annually "evaluate whether collection of the fee will provide sufficient revenues" to offset program costs. The fees, totally $750 million per year, are intended to cover the full costs of the government's long-term disposal of civilian nuclear waste. In 2009, the government abandoned its plan to designate Yucca Mountain for the disposal of the waste. Yet, despite this program change, the Secretary's 2010 determination failed to examine the anticipated costs of disposal or compare them to expected revenues from the fees. Because the Secretary failed to perform the requisite evaluation, the court ruled that the determination was legally inadequate. But instead of suspending the fees, the court remanded the matter to the Secretary with directions to comply with the statute within six months.