Supreme Court to consider challenge to Virginia uranium mining ban

Supreme Court to consider challenge to Virginia uranium mining ban
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The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to hear a case challenging Virginia’s ban on mining uranium.

In the case, Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren, a group of companies argue that the Atomic Energy Act prohibits certain state laws like a ban on uranium mining, and gives the federal government exclusive authority over those matters. That law authorizes the federal government to oversee certain aspects of the nuclear energy industry.

“Because the ban ... was motivated by concerns about the radiological safety of activities regulated by the federal government pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act, it is preempted under this Court’s precedents and the uniform body of lower-court case law applying them,” the companies wrote to the court last year in asking the justices to take the case.

A federal appeals court panel last year rejected the companies’ arguments 2-1, and a lower court similarly ruled for the state in 2015.

But the Trump administration agreed with the companies and asked the Supreme Court to take the case and rule that the mining ban is illegal.

Virginia officials don’t want the Supreme Court to hear the case and want their victory in the lower court to stand.

“Nothing in the Act prevents states from regulating or banning such mining, regardless of the state’s alleged purpose,” Virginia told the court.

At issue specifically in the case is a site near Virginia’s southern border that is privately owned and estimated to contain 119 million pounds of uranium.

But the high court’s ruling could have national implications and reduce the ability of other states to regulate uranium mining activity.