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Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren

ELR Citation: 49 ELR 20104
Nos. 16-1275, (U.S., 06/17/2019)

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld a state law banning uranium mining on private lands in Virginia. A mining company argued the Atomic Energy Act (AEA) preempted the law and reserved to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) alone the authority to regulate uranium mining based on nuclear safety concerns. The Court found no provision under the AEA that expressly preempted the law, and noted that the Act granted the NRC extensive and sometimes exclusive authority to regulate nearly every aspect of the nuclear fuel life cycle except mining. The company also argued the AEA displaced the law through conflict preemption, by disrupting the balance Congress intended to reach between the benefits of developing nuclear power and mitigating its safety and environmental costs. But the Court held it could only be sure of what could be found in the law itself, and that every indication in the AEA suggested that Congress elected to leave mining regulation on private land to the states and grant the NRC regulatory authority only after uranium was removed from the earth. It therefore affirmed the appellate court's judgment upholding the ban. Gorsuch, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which Thomas and Kavanaugh, JJ., joined. Ginsburg, J., filed a concurring opinion, in which Sotomayor and Kagan, JJ., joined. Roberts, C.J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which Breyer and Alito, JJ., joined.