Pacific Gas & Electric Company v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission

PETITIONER: Pacific Gas & Electric Company
RESPONDENT: State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission
LOCATION: PACIFIC GAS & ELECTRIC CO.

DOCKET NO.: 81-1945
DECIDED BY: Burger Court (1981-1986)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

CITATION: 461 US 190 (1983)
ARGUED: Jan 17, 1983
DECIDED: Apr 20, 1983

ADVOCATES:
John R. Mc Donough - on behalf of the Petitioners
John R. McDonough - Argued the cause for the petitioners
Louis F. Claiborne - Argued the cause for the United States as amicus curiae urging reversal
Laurence H. Tribe - Argued the cause for the respondents

Facts of the case

A California law dictated that before additional nuclear power plants could be built, the state energy commission had to determine that there would be adequate storage capacity for spent fuel rods. Two utility companies challenged the law, arguing that its provisions had been preempted by the federal Atomic Energy Act of 1954.

Question

Did the California law unconstitutionally intrude into areas of federal authority as defined by the Atomic Energy Act?

Media for Pacific Gas & Electric Company v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - January 17, 1983 in Pacific Gas & Electric Company v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - April 20, 1983 in Pacific Gas & Electric Company v. State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission

Byron R. White:

The last case I have to announce is Pacific Gas & Electric against the State Energy Commission of California.

Under -- under the California law, the Commission before it issues a license for a nuclear energy plant must determine that that plant will have adequate storage capacity for the interim storage of spent fuel.

The statute also imposes a moratorium on any nuclear plant licensing until and unless the Federal Government approves a technology for the permanent storage of high level of nuclear waste.

The utilities who are the petitioners in this case filed a suit claiming that these provisions were invalid under the Supremacy Clause because they were in conflict with the federal law.

The District Court agreed but the Court of Appeals reversed.

The Court of Appeals said that the issue about relating to interim storage was not right for resolution, but it went to hold that the moratorium was valid because it was not in conflict with a federal law.

We granted certiorari and we affirm in all aspects with the reasons we have stated in an opinion filed with the -- with the clerk.

We agree with the Court of Appeals that the interim storage provision was not ripe for resolution and that the moratorium is it either conflicts with federal law and it doesn't frustrate any objective of the -- of the federal law, so we affirm the judgment.

Justice Blackmun joined by Justice Stevens has filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment.

Warren E. Burger:

Thank you, Justice White.