Florida Power Light Company v. Lorion United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission v. Lorion, Nos. 83-703

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtBRENNAN
Citation105 S.Ct. 1598,84 L.Ed.2d 643,470 U.S. 729
PartiesFLORIDA POWER & LIGHT COMPANY, Petitioner, v. Joette LORION, etc., et al. UNITED STATES NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION and United States, Petitioners v. Joette LORION et al
Docket NumberNos. 83-703,83-1031
Decision Date20 March 1985

470 U.S. 729
105 S.Ct. 1598
84 L.Ed.2d 643
FLORIDA POWER & LIGHT COMPANY, Petitioner,

v.

Joette LORION, etc., et al. UNITED STATES NUCLEAR REGULATORY COMMISSION and United States, Petitioners v. Joette LORION et al.

Nos. 83-703, 83-1031.
Argued Oct. 29, 1984.
Decided March 20, 1985.
Syllabus

Under 28 U.S.C. § 2342(4), a provision of the Hobbs Act, the courts of appeals have exclusive jurisdiction over petitions for review of "all final orders" of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission "made reviewable by" 42 U.S.C. § 2239. Section 2239(b), in turn, provides that the Hobbs Act governs review of "[a]ny final order entered in any proceeding of the kind specified in subsection (a) of this section." Subsection (a)(1) provides that "[i]n any proceeding under this chapter, for the granting, suspending, revoking, or amending of any license . . . the Commission shall grant a hearing upon the request of any person whose interest may be affected by the proceeding." Respondent Lorion (hereafter respondent) wrote a detailed letter to the Commission expressing fears about potential safety threats at Florida Power & Light Co.'s nuclear reactor near her home, and urging the Commission to suspend the reactor's operating license. The Commission treated the letter as a citizen petition, under its rules, requesting the institution of administrative proceedings to suspend the license. After the Commission ultimately denied the request, respondent petitioned the Court of Appeals for review. The court decided sua sponte that it lacked initial subject-matter jurisdiction to review the Commission's denial of respondent's citizen petition, concluding that such a denial was not an order in a "proceeding" within the meaning of § 2239(a)(1).

Held: Section 2239 vests in the courts of appeals initial subject-matter jurisdiction over Commission orders denying citizen petitions made pursuant to Commission rules. Pp. 734-746.

(a) The language of § 2239 is ambiguous because subsection (b) refers to "proceeding[s] of the kind specified in subsection (a)," but the pertinent sentence in subsection (a)(1) sets forth both the scope of Commission licensing proceedings and a hearing requirement for such proceedings. Thus § 2239 may be read to authorize initial court of appeals

Page 730

review either by reference to whether a hearing was held pursuant to the hearing requirement (as the Court of Appeals did here), or by reference to the subject matter of the agency action, that is, whether the order was issued in a licensing proceeding. Pp. 735-737.

(b) Relevant evidence of congressional intent in the legislative history supports the interpretation that Congress intended to provide for initial court of appeals review of all final orders in licensing proceedings whether or not a hearing before the Commission occurred or could have occurred. Pp. 737-740.

(c) Whether subject-matter jurisdiction over denials of citizens petitions properly lies in the district courts or the courts of appeals must also be considered in light of the basic congressional choice of Hobbs Act review in § 2239(b). The Hobbs Act specifically contemplates initial courts of appeals review of agency orders resulting from proceedings in which no hearing took place. Pp. 740-741.

(d) Adopting a rule that would vest the courts of appeals with initial subject-matter jurisdiction of challenges to Commission denials of citizen petitions only when an administrative hearing occurred or could have occurred would result in irrational consequences that could not be squared with general principles respecting judicial review of agency action. Pp. 741-745.

229 U.S.App.D.C. 440, 712 F.2d 1472 (1983), reversed and remanded.

Charles A. Rothfeld, Washington, D.C., for petitioners in No. 83-1031, pro hac vice, by special leave of Court.

Harold F. Reis, Washington, D.C., for petitioner in No. 83-703.

Martin H. Hodder, Miami, Fla., for respondents.

Page 731

Justice BRENNAN delivered the opinion of the Court.

These cases require us to decide whether 28 U.S.C. § 2342(4) and 42 U.S.C. § 2239 grant the federal courts of appeals exclusive subject-matter jurisdiction initially to review decisions of the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to deny citizen petitions requesting that the Commission "institute a proceeding . . . to modify, suspend or revoke a license. . . ." 10 CFR § 2.206(a) (1984).

I

Respondent Joette Lorion, on behalf of the Center for Nuclear Responsibility, wrote the Nuclear Regulatory Commission on September 11, 1981, to express fears about potential safety threats at petitioner Florida Power and Light Company's Turkey Point nuclear reactor near her home outside Miami, Florida. Her detailed letter urged the Commission to suspend Turkey Point's operating license 1 and specified several reasons for such action.2 The Commission treated Lorion's letter as a citizen petition for enforcement action pursuant to the authority of § 2.206 of the Commission's rules of practice. This rule provides:

Page 732

and set forth the facts that constitute the basis for the request." 10 CFR § 2.206(a) (1984).

This rule also requires the Director of Nuclear Reactor Regulation, within a reasonable time after receiving such a request, either to institute the requested proceeding,3 or to provide a written explanation of the decision to deny the request. § 2.206(b). The Commission interprets § 2.206 as requiring issuance of an order to show cause when a citizen petition raises "substantial health or safety issues." Consolidated Edison Co. of New York, 2 N.R.C. 173, 174 (1975).

In these cases, the Director decided not to take the action Lorion had requested. His written explanation—based on a 547-page record compiled primarily from existing Commission materials responded to each of Lorion's points.4 See In re Florida Power & Light Co. (Turkey Point Plant, Unit 4), 14 N.R.C. 1078 (1981). Lorion unsuccessfully sought review by the Commission of the Director's denial of the § 2.206 request and then petitioned the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit for review. Before that court, Lorion argued that the Director's denial of the § 2.206 request was arbitrary and capricious pursuant to the Administrative Procedure Act (APA), 5 U.S.C. § 706(2)(A).

Page 733

Lorion also claimed that the Commission improperly denied her the statutory right to a full public hearing on the § 2.206 request. The Commission defended the substantive integrity of its decision and argued that Lorion had no right to a hearing.

Declining to reach the merits of this dispute, the Court of Appeals decided sua sponte that it lacked initial subject-matter jurisdiction over Lorion's challenge to the denial of the § 2.206 petition. This result was based on the court's reading of the three statutory provisions that define the initial jurisdiction of the federal courts of appeals over Commission decisions. Under 28 U.S.C. § 2342(4), a provision of the Administrative Orders Review Act (commonly known and referred to herein as the Hobbs Act) the courts of appeals have exclusive jurisdiction over petitions seeking review of "all final orders of the Atomic Energy Commission [now the Nuclear Regulatory Commission] made reviewable by section 2239 of title 42." Title 42 U.S.C. § 2239(b) provides that the Hobbs Act governs review of "[a]ny final order entered in any proceeding of the kind specified in subsection (a) [of section 2239]." Subsection (a) proceedings are those "for the granting, suspending, revoking, or amending of any license." 42 U.S.C. § 2239(a)(1). The Court of Appeals concluded that the Commission's denial of Lorion's § 2.206 petition was not an order entered in a "proceeding for the granting, suspending, revoking, or amending of any license" within the meaning of 42 U.S.C. § 2239(a) and therefore dismissed Lorion's petition for review for lack of subject-matter jurisdiction. 229 U.S.App.D.C. 440, 712 F.2d 1472 (1983).

The court's decision turned on its interpretation of the interrelation between the review and hearing provisions of § 2239. Section 2239(a)(1) provides that "[i]n any proceeding under this chapter, for the granting, suspending, revoking, or amending of any license . . . the Commission shall grant a hearing upon the request of any person whose interest may be affected by the proceeding." On the basis of this statu-

Page 734

tory hearing requirement, the court reasoned that Commission action was a § 2239(a)(1) "proceeding" only if an interested person could obtain a hearing. Because the Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit had earlier held that a § 2.206 petitioner had no right to a hearing, see Porter County Chapter of the Izaak Walton League of America, Inc. v. NRC, 196 U.S.App.D.C. 456, 462, and n. 16, 606 F.2d 1363, 1369, and n. 16 (1979), and because the Commission urged in its brief that " '[u]nless and until granted [Lorion's § 2.206 request] is not a "proceeding" where the requester has any right to present evidence,' " 229 U.S.App.D.C., at 446, 712 F.2d, at 1478 (citation omitted), the Court of Appeals held that the denial of Lorion's § 2.206 request was not an order entered in a "proceeding" within the meaning of § 2239(a). Section 2239(b) was therefore found not to authorize initial court of appeals review of the order, and the court declined to hear the case.5 This holding arguably departed from precedent within the Circuit,6 and in any event created a direct conflict with the holdings of two other Circuits.7 We granted certiorari to resolve the conflict. 466 U.S. 903, 104 S.Ct. 1676, 80 L.Ed.2d 152 (1984). We reverse.

II

The issue before us is whether the Commission's denial of a § 2.206 request should be considered a final order initially reviewable exclusively in the court of appeals pursuant to 42

Page 735

U.S.C. § 2239(b) and 28 U.S.C. § 2342(4).8 This issue requires us to decide whether such an order is issued in a "proceeding . . . for...

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1882 practice notes
  • Part II
    • United States
    • Federal Register May 07, 2008
    • 7 Mayo 2008
    ...that agency rule would be arbitrary and capricious if the explanation runs counter to the evidence before the agency); FPL v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, \199\ Id. at 34-35. 140. Southern states that although Appendix E required the use of generation scaling for calculating simultaneous import li......
  • Shalom Pentecostal Church v. Acting Sec'y U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., No. 13–4434.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 7 Abril 2015
    ...INS v. Ventura, 537 U.S. 12, 16, 123 S.Ct. 353, 154 L.Ed.2d 272 (2002)783 F.3d 168(per curiam) (quoting Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744, 105 S.Ct. 1598, 84 L.Ed.2d 643 (1985) ). Accordingly, we will reverse the order granting the petition and will remand to the District ......
  • Rad v. Attorney Gen. U.S., No. 19-1404
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 21 Diciembre 2020
    ...factors ... the proper course, except in rare circumstances, is to remand to the agency for additional investigation or explanation." 470 U.S. 729, 744, 105 S.Ct. 1598, 84 L.Ed.2d 643 (1985). Thus, we remand at this point not to permit the Board to retread the evidence and arguments it has ......
  • Humane Soc'y of U.S. v. Jewell, Civil Action No. 13–186 BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 19 Diciembre 2014
    ...§ 706(2)(F) (“[T]he Court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party....”); Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 743, 105 S.Ct. 1598, 84 L.Ed.2d 643 (1985) (in applying the arbitrary and capricious standard under the APA, “[t]he focal point for judicial r......
  • Request a trial to view additional results
1875 cases
  • Shalom Pentecostal Church v. Acting Sec'y U.S. Dep't of Homeland Sec., No. 13–4434.
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 7 Abril 2015
    ...INS v. Ventura, 537 U.S. 12, 16, 123 S.Ct. 353, 154 L.Ed.2d 272 (2002)783 F.3d 168(per curiam) (quoting Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744, 105 S.Ct. 1598, 84 L.Ed.2d 643 (1985) ). Accordingly, we will reverse the order granting the petition and will remand to the District ......
  • Rad v. Attorney Gen. U.S., No. 19-1404
    • United States
    • United States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (3rd Circuit)
    • 21 Diciembre 2020
    ...factors ... the proper course, except in rare circumstances, is to remand to the agency for additional investigation or explanation." 470 U.S. 729, 744, 105 S.Ct. 1598, 84 L.Ed.2d 643 (1985). Thus, we remand at this point not to permit the Board to retread the evidence and arguments it has ......
  • Humane Soc'y of U.S. v. Jewell, Civil Action No. 13–186 BAH
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 19 Diciembre 2014
    ...§ 706(2)(F) (“[T]he Court shall review the whole record or those parts of it cited by a party....”); Fla. Power & Light Co. v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 743, 105 S.Ct. 1598, 84 L.Ed.2d 643 (1985) (in applying the arbitrary and capricious standard under the APA, “[t]he focal point for judicial r......
  • Evangelical Lutheran Church in America v. Immigration and Naturalization Service, Civil Action 02-01297 (HHK) (D. D.C. 10/30/2003), Civil Action 02-01297 (HHK).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. United States District Court (Columbia)
    • 30 Octubre 2003
    ...plaintiffs' petition for an H-1B extension of stay to the INS for further explanation or reconsideration. Florida Power & Light v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 744 (1985); Tourus Records, Inc, 259 F.3d at 2. The I-94 Claim The court now turns to plaintiffs' second and final claim. Here, plaintiffs......
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1 books & journal articles
  • The Public Participation Process
    • United States
    • RCRA permitting deskbook
    • 10 Mayo 2011
    ...record or the parts cited by the parties in making its determinations) [hereinafter Pierce]. See, e.g., Florida Power & Light v. Lorion, 470 U.S. 729, 734-44, 15 ELR 20321 (1985); American Mining Congress v. EPA, 907 F.2d 1179, 20 ELR 21415 (D.C. Cir. 1990); In re Ash Grove Cement Co., 7 E.......

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