Pacific Legal Foundation v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Com'n, Nos. 79-3365

CourtUnited States Courts of Appeals. United States Court of Appeals (9th Circuit)
Writing for the CourtBefore FLETCHER and FERGUSON; FLETCHER; FERGUSON
Citation659 F.2d 903
Decision Date20 January 1982
Docket Number79-3382,Nos. 79-3365,80-4265 and 80-4273
Parties, 11 Envtl. L. Rep. 21,070 PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION, a California Nonprofit Corporation, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees, v. STATE ENERGY RESOURCES CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, a state agency, et al., Defendants-Appellants. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al., Defendants-Intervenors- Appellants. PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC CO. and Southern California Edison Co., Plaintiffs- Appellees, v. STATE ENERGY RESOURCES CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT COMMISSION, a state agency, et al., Defendants-Appellants. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al., Defendants-Intervenors- Appellants.

Page 903

659 F.2d 903
16 ERC 1513, 11 Envtl. L. Rep. 21,070
PACIFIC LEGAL FOUNDATION, a California Nonprofit
Corporation, et al., Plaintiffs-Appellees,
v.
STATE ENERGY RESOURCES CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT
COMMISSION, a state agency, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al.,
Defendants-Intervenors- Appellants.
PACIFIC GAS AND ELECTRIC CO. and Southern California Edison
Co., Plaintiffs- Appellees,
v.
STATE ENERGY RESOURCES CONSERVATION & DEVELOPMENT
COMMISSION, a state agency, et al., Defendants-Appellants.
Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., et al.,
Defendants-Intervenors- Appellants.
Nos. 79-3365, 79-3382, 80-4265 and 80-4273.
United States Court of Appeals,
Ninth Circuit.
Argued and Submitted Oct. 9, 1980.
Decided Oct. 7, 1981.
Rehearing and Rehearing En Banc Denied Jan. 20, 1982.

Page 906

Laurence H. Tribe, Cambridge, Mass., Roger Beers, Michael Jencks, Kathryn Burkett Dickson, Antonio Rossmann, San Franciso, Cal., William M. Chamberlain, Dian Grueneich, Sacremento, Cal., for appellants.

Ralph Cavanagh, Natural Resources Defense Council, San Francisco, Cal., Laurence H. Tribe, Cambridge, Mass., for intervenors-appellants.

Lawrence H. Tribe, Cambridge, Mass.

Raymond M. Momboise, Washington, D. C., argued, for Pacific Legal Foundation et al.; Ronald A. Zumbrun, Sacramento, Cal., on brief.

John R. McDonough, Laurence F. Jay, Ball, Hunt, Hart, Brown & Baerwitz, Beverly Hills, Cal., for Pacific Gas & Elec., et al.

Robert Rodecker, Gen. Counsel, Charleston, Va., for amicus curiae State of Va.

John J. McMahon, Deputy Atty. Gen., Boise, Idaho, for amicus curiae State of Idaho.

Bension D. Scotch, Asst. Atty. Gen., Montpelier, Vt., for amicus curiae State of Vt.

J. Mark Davis, Deputy Atty. Gen., Little Rock, Ark., for amicus curiae State of Ark.

Francis S. Wright, Asst. Atty. Gen., EPA, Boston, Mass., for amicus curiae State of Mass.

Tang S. Hong, Deputy Atty. Gen., Honolulu, Hawaii, for amicus curiae State of Hawaii.

A. Rodman Johnson, Deputy Gen. Counsel, Topeka, Kan., for amicus curiae State of Kan.

Harvey S. Price, Inc., Eugene R. Fidell, LeBoeuf, Lamb, Leiby & McRae, Washington, D. C., for amicus curiae Atomic Indus. Forum, Inc.

Tyrone C. Fahner, Atty. Gen., George William Wolff, Asst. Atty. Gen., Chief, Environmental Control Div., Chicago, Ill., for amicus curiae State of Ill.

Joseph B. Knotts, Jr., Debevoise & Liberman, Washington, D. C., for amicus curiae Edison Elec. Institute.

Jancie E. Kerr, San Francisco, Cal., for amicus curiae Public Utilities Com'n of Cal.

Frank W. Ostrander, Jr., Asst. Atty. Gen., Salem, Or., for amicus curiae State of Or.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Southern District of California.

Appeal from the United States District Court for the Eastern District of California.

Before FLETCHER and FERGUSON, Circuit Judges, and FITZGERALD, * District Judge.

FLETCHER, Circuit Judge:

These are consolidated appeals from two district court decisions, 489 F.Supp. 699, 472 F.Supp. 191, invalidating portions of California's Warren-Alquist Act. The Warren-Alquist Act regulates all electric plants in California and imposes a moratorium on the construction of new nuclear plants. The courts below held that insofar as the challenged provisions regulate nuclear plants, they are preempted by the federal Atomic Energy Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 2011-2282 (1976 & Supp. III 1979).

Page 907

We find that on the records before us, only two of the challenged provisions are ripe for review: the moratorium provision and the requirement that utilities submit three alternate sites for their proposed plants. On the merits, we hold that the Atomic Energy Act does not preempt state laws enacted for purposes other than protection against radiation hazards. Because the moratorium provision and the three-site requirement were enacted for purposes other than protection against radiation hazards, we conclude that they are not preempted.

I
BACKGROUND

A. The Warren-Alquist Act and the Nuclear Laws

The Warren-Alquist State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Act, Cal.Pub.Res.Code §§ 25000-25986 (West 1977 & Supp. 1980), commonly known as the Warren-Alquist Act, was enacted by California in 1974. According to the legislative findings and policies set forth in the Act, it was adopted in furtherance of the state's responsibility as perceived by the legislature to ensure a reliable source of electrical energy, and to that end to require coordination of energy research and regulation at the state level. Id. §§ 25001-25007.

In keeping with this objective, the legislature established a five-member State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Commission (the Energy Commission) to carry out the necessary research and regulation. Id. § 25200. The Energy Commission, defendant-appellant in these cases, 1 has broad authority over energy planning and forecasting, conservation, resource management, research and development, and the regulation of power plants. The present actions challenge a number of the Warren-Alquist Act's provisions authorizing the Energy Commission to regulate the construction and operation of new nuclear power plants.

California's system of regulating power plants is similar to that employed by a number of other states. 2 In brief, the construction or modification of any power plant, nuclear or non-nuclear, is conditioned upon the Energy Commission's approval, or "certification," of both the site and the proposed plant. Id. § 25500. To obtain certification, utilities must follow a two-step procedure.

First, any utility planning to construct a power plant must at an early stage submit a "notice of intention" containing information regarding the need for the power plant, the proposed design, the location of alternate sites, and the relative merits of the different sites. Id. §§ 25502, 25504. During this phase of the certification process, the focus is on determining site suitability and general conformance of the proposed plant with long-term energy needs, and health, safety and environmental standards. Each notice of intention must contain at least three alternate sites, only two of which may be near the coast. Id. § 25503. 3 The Energy Commission reviews

Page 908

the information submitted by the applicant, consults with other agencies, holds hearings, and makes a variety of findings based on its analysis of the data it has gathered. Id. §§ 25505-25516.5. 4 The notice of intention may be approved only if the Energy Commission finds that at least two of the proposed sites are acceptable, or that one site is acceptable and a good-faith effort to find an alternate has been made. Id. § 25516.

Before beginning the actual construction of a power plant, a utility must apply to the Energy Commission for certification. Id. § 25517. The application must contain detailed information about the plant, 5 and the Energy Commission is again directed to review the information and hold hearings. Id. §§ 25519-25521. An environmental impact statement is prepared. Local agencies are asked to comment on such matters as the design of the proposed power plant, architectural and aesthetic features, access to roads, and public use of land surrounding the proposed plant. The California Public Utilities Commission is asked to make recommendations regarding the rate structure and economic reliability of the proposed plant, and comments are solicited from other agencies and the public. Id. § 25519. The Energy Commission then issues a written decision containing findings similar to those required at the notice-of-intention stage, 6 including specification as to how the plant is to be designed and operated in order to protect health, safety, and environmental quality. Id. § 25523. As a condition of certification, the Energy Commission may require the utility to obtain development rights to property surrounding the plant so as to maintain population densities at a safe level. Id. § 25528. The Energy Commission is also directed to monitor certified plants once they become operational. Id. § 25532.

For the most part, this regulatory scheme applies to power plants of all types. 7 In 1976, however, the California legislature added several provisions to the Warren-Alquist Act that are applicable only to nuclear plants. Id. §§ 25524.1, 25524.2, 25524.3. These provisions, known as the Nuclear Laws, impose a moratorium on the certification of any new nuclear plants until the Energy Commission makes certain findings and submits them to the California legislature for approval. Section 25524.1(a) prohibits the certification of nuclear plants requiring fuel reprocessing until the Energy Commission finds that a federally approved method of fuel reprocessing exists; section 25524.2 prohibits the certification of all types of nuclear plants until the Energy Commission finds that a federally approved method of disposing of nuclear wastes exists; and section 25524.3 prohibits the certification of all types of nuclear plants until the Energy Commission has completed and submitted to the legislature a study on the

Page 909

feasibility of undergrounding and berm containment. 8 The Nuclear Laws also require the Energy Commission to determine, on a case-by-case basis, whether facilities are available to store a proposed nuclear plant's spent fuel rods. Id. § 25524.1(b). The Nuclear Laws direct the Energy Commission to continue processing notices of intention and applications for certification of new nuclear plants, but until the requisite findings are made the plants cannot be certified and construction cannot begin. Id. §§ 25524.1(c), 25524.2(d), 25524.3(c); see id. §§ 25500, 25517.

B. The PLF Case

The first of the two cases before us, Pacific Legal Foundation v. State Energy Resources Conservation & Development Commission (PLF), involves only one provision of the Warren-Alquist Act: section 25524.2, imposing a moratorium on new nuclear plants until the...

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