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Supreme Court rules in interstate radioactive waste disposal suit

The US Supreme Court [official website; JURIST news archive] on Tuesday decided [opinion, PDF] in Alabama v. North Carolina [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] to adopt the recommendations of the Special Master in an interstate dispute over the disposal of radioactive waste. The court has original jurisdiction over the dispute and agreed to hear the suit in 2003. Both parties were seeking exceptions to the reports of the Special Master [preliminary report, PDF; second report, PDF]. Writing for a divided court, Justice Antonin Scalia overruled exceptions to the Special Master's reports and adopted the recommendations, allowing the lawsuit to proceed. Justice Anthony Kennedy filed an opinion concurring in part and concurring in the judgment, joined by Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Chief Justice John Roberts filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Justice Clarence Thomas. Justice Stephen Breyer also filed an opinion concurring in part and dissenting in part, joined by Roberts.

The dispute centers on an agreement, entered into by eight southern states in 1986, for the disposal of the region's low-level radioactive waste. Under the agreement, North Carolina was selected to construct a facility for waste disposal and received financial assistance to that end. However, North Carolina did not obtain a license for the facility and subsequently withdrew from the compact. The four remaining states that are still parties to the agreement brought suit against North Carolina in the Supreme Court seeking enforcement of monetary sanctions.

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