Court Hears Arguments on Anti-Nuclear Waste Law

Court Hears Arguments on Anti-Nuclear Waste Law

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- A federal appeals court has heard arguments over the constitutionality of laws enacted by Utah to prevent the Goshutes from storing nuclear waste on their Skull Valley reservation.

A panel of the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeal devoted an hour Tuesday to hearing the arguments, which they took under advisement, The Salt Lake Tribune reported. The panel held its session at the U.S. District Courthouse in Albuquerque instead of at its usual home in Denver.

At Utah's request, the three-judge panel is trying to decide whether to uphold U.S. District Judge Tena Campbell's ruling last summer that five state laws intended to block the waste facility are unconstitutional.

The state is hoping the federal government will deny a permit for the waste storage. In case that fails, the Legislature enacted laws to impose a 75 percent yearly transaction fee on contracts related to the facility, a $5 million license application fee and, among other requirements, a bond of about $2 billion,

"That is, I think, beyond chilling," said Val R. Antczak, attorney for Private Fuel Storage, the consortium of nuclear power utilities that wants to establish the facility on the Goshutes' reservation.

The consortium and the band say that the state laws violated their right under federal law to pursue a license from the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission. And, because the federal government is almost exclusively empowered to regulate nuclear storage, transportation and disposal, the state laws were pre-empted, the project proponents contend.

The state contends Congress never authorized the NRC to license a facility like the one proposed for the Goshute reservation.

State attorneys say there is nothing wrong with the state trying to stop what they claim would be an unlawful project.

Thomas R. Lee, a Brigham Young University law professor representing the state, argued that project proponents do not have the legal right to challenge Utah laws because they have no legal right to the license they are seeking.

(Copyright 2003 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

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