May 10, 2019

Preemption and purpose: Virginia Uranium, Inc. v. Warren

Matthew E. Price and Max Minzner

The Atomic Energy Act creates a comprehensive federal scheme governing radioactive safety. Like many such schemes, the statute carves out and protects certain areas where states retain the authority to act, while empowering the federal government to regulate other areas. The statute, though, is unusual in that it makes preemption turn on the state’s purpose: Congress expressly preserved state authority to “regulate [even covered] activities for purposes other than protection against radiation hazards.” 42 U.S.C. § 2021(k) (emphasis added).

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