New York v. United States
505 U.S. 144 (1992)

  • The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Act Amendments of 1985 required States (alone or in compacts with other States) to dispose of radioactive waste within their borders.
    • This was a proposed solution to the NIMBY problem (not in my backyard).
  • New York State and Allegany and Courtland counties were unable to comply with the law due to resistance from residents to proposed radioactive waste sites and a lack of cooperation from neighboring States.
  • New York filed suit against the Federal government, questioning the authority of Congress to regulate State waste management.
    • Oddly, a lot of New York State officials were in favor of this law.
      • Of course, that doesnít matter.† Constitutional law isnít about getting people to agree, itís about what the law says.† You canít violate the Constitution, even if you get the relevant branches of government to all agree to do it.
  • The US Supreme Court upheld two of the three provisions of the Act under review, reasoning that Congress had the authority under the Interstate Commerce Clause to use financial rewards and access to disposal sites as incentives for state waste management.
    • First provision was financial rewards.† Basically the States that donít accept waste (or are not part of compacts) are charged a surcharge by States that have disposal sites.† But they donít get the money, the money gets filtered through the Secretary of Energy and provided back to the States creating the waste if they were able to build a disposal site or get into a compact before the 1993 deadline.
      • States canít tax interstate commerce!† But this is coming directly from the Federal government, and the States doing the taxing donít get the money, so itís ok.
    • Second provision was access.† The surcharges will increase every year, and at some point access would be completely denied.
    • Third provision, the take-title qualification, stipulated that States must take legal ownership and liability for low-level waste by 1996.† Alternately, they could enact legislation to enact the Federal proposal.† The Court found that this crossed the line distinguishing encouragement from coercion.
      • ďEither type of Federal action,Ē wrote Justice OíConnor, ďwould commandeer State governments into the service of Federal regulatory purposes, and would for this reason be inconsistent with the Constitutionís division of authority between Federal and State governments.Ē
      • Basically, with the first two provisions, the States would have had pay more $$$, but would have a choice if they wanted to participate or not.† The third provision though didnít give the States a choice.† No choice = coercion.
      • In addition, this provision would give the Federal government regulatory authority over who owned the waste.† The Federal government had no Constitutional authority to regulate wastes.
        • The part of the third provision, where the States were told to enact the Federal program, was an attempt to get the States to acquiesce to increased Federal authority to regulate something that they couldnít Constitutionally regulate.
        • Federal government canít force States to enact State legislation.
    • The Supreme Court found that take-title qualification violated the 10th Amendment.
    • In a dissent, it was claimed that history is by no means supportive of the position that the Federal government had no authority to regulate States.
      • Justice OíConnor argued that under the Articles of Confederation, it was said that the Federal government had the power to regulate States, but not individuals.† But the Constitution flip-flopped and allowed regulation of individuals, but not States.† The dissent claimed that this was just wrong.