Vermont Yankee Nuclear Power Corp. v. Natural Resources Defense Council Inc.
By: LN on May 02, 2012 09:51:38 AM

Citation:  435 U.S. 519 (1978)

Summary:  Operating license was issued by Nuclear Regulatory Commission to Vermont Yankee in a nuclear power plant. Respondents claimed inadequacy in rulemaking proceedings.

Facts:  Nuclear Regulatory Commission granted petitioner Vermont Yankee a permit to build a nuclear power plant in Vernon, Vt. Thereafter, Vermont Yankee applied for an operating license. Respondent Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) objected to the granting of a license and a hearing on the application commenced. In a supplemental notice of hearing the Commission indicated that while discovery or cross-examination would not be utilized, the Environmental Survey would be available to the public before the hearing along with the extensive background documents cited therein. Commission issued the license to Vermont Yankee. Respondents, NRDC appealed against issuance of license. Appellate Court for Columbia Circuit determined the rulemaking proceedings to be inadequate favoring respondents.

Issue:  Whether the Appellate Court was correct in holding that the procedures provided by the agency were not sufficient to ventilate the issues?

Holding:  No, Appellate Court was not correct in holding that the procedures provided by the agency were not sufficient to ventilate the issues.

Procedure:  Judgment of the appellate court was reversed by United States Supreme Court.

Rule:  APA sets forth several steps an agency must take when engaged in rulemaking: it must publish a general notice of proposed rulemaking in the Federal Register; give an opportunity for interested persons to participate in the rulemaking through submission of written data, views or arguments; and issue publication of a concise general statement of the rule's basis and purpose. (Administrative Procedure Act § 553 (b))

Rationale:  Absent constitutional constraints, the administrative agencies had to be free to fashion their own rules of procedure and to pursue methods of inquiry capable of permitting them to discharge their multitudinous duties. Nothing in APA, past agency practice or the statutory mandate under which the Commission operates permitted the court to review and overturn the rulemaking proceeding on the basis of the procedural devices employed by the Commission so long as the Commission employed at least the statutory minima.


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