The Boeing Company v. Raphael

Summarized by:

  • Court: 9th Circuit Court of Appeals Archives
  • Area(s) of Law: Environmental Law
  • Date Filed: 09-19-2014
  • Case #: 11-55903
  • Judge(s)/Court Below: Circuit Judge Kleinfeld for the Court; Circuit Judges Goodwin and Silverman
  • Full Text Opinion

A state’s authority to regulate nuclear safety is preempted by the federal government’s control over the field of nuclear safety.

In the 1940s, the federal government built the Santa Susana Field Laboratory in Ventura County, California to test rockets and nuclear devices. The site was used for these purposes by federal agencies and contractors like the Boeing Company (“Boeing”) until 2006. The focus at the site since has been on cleanup. Use of the test site left severe environmental harm, including radioactive contamination. The federal government is undisputedly responsible for the environmental damage done to the land. In 2007, the State of California passed Senate Bill 990, which set standards to control the cleanup efforts at Santa Susana. These standards are higher than the federal standards. Boeing filed suit challenging the California standards as being preempted by the federal government’s control of nuclear safety and in violation of the Supremacy Clause. The district court found for Boeing, and the California Department of Toxic Substances Control appealed. On appeal, the Ninth Circuit held that a state’s authority to regulate nuclear safety is preempted by the federal government’s control over the field of nuclear safety. Additionally, the conflict between state and federal law cleanup regulations violates the Supremacy Clause. AFFIRMED.

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