Saturday, December 7, 2013

Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group, Inc. case brief

Duke Power Co. v. Carolina Environmental Study Group, Inc. case brief summary
438 U.S. 59 (1978)

Appellant power company sought review of a judgment from the United States District Court for the Western District of North Carolina, which determined that appellees, environmental organizations and individuals who resided within close proximity to a planned nuclear power facility, had standing to bring a claim for declaratory relief, and that the Price-Anderson Act,42 U.S.C.S. § 2210 et seq., was unconstitutional.

In an action brought by appellees, environmental organizations and residents of the area near a planned nuclear power facility, the district court determined that the Price-Anderson Act (Act), 42 U.S.C.S. § 2210 et seq., which was intended to protect the public and encourage the development of the private atomic energy industry by limiting the aggregate liability of the industry, was unconstitutional on the ground that it violated the Due Process Clause of U.S. Constitutional Amendment V.

  • The Court reversed the district court holding. 
  • The Act was presumed constitutional, and the burden was on appellees to show that the legislature had acted in an arbitrary and irrational way. 
  • The record supported the need to statutorily limit liability and was found to bear a rational relationship to Congress's concern for stimulating the involvement of private enterprise. 
  • The argument as to the arbitrariness of the $ 560 million statutory ceiling on liability was rejected in view of the extremely remote possibility of an accident where liability would exceed the limitation of 42 U.S.C.S. § 2210 (e), whereby Congress committed to take necessary actions to protect the public in case of such a disaster.
The Court reversed the finding that the Price-Anderson Act was unconstitutional because Congress had not acted in an arbitrary or irrational manner in enacting the statute. The need to statutorily limit the liability of the nuclear power industry was rationally related to the need to develop the private sector interest, and the liability ceiling was based on the remote possibility of an accident where liability would exceed that limitation.

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