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High Court Adopts Recommendations On Interstate Waste Agreement

WASHINGTON, D.C. - (Mealey's) The U.S. Supreme Court on June 1 adopted recommendations by a court-appointed special master in litigation brought by four states and an interstate commission challenging North Carolina's alleged breach of a radioactive waste management agreement (State of Alabama, et al. v. State of North Carolina, No. 132 Orig., U.S. Sup.).

The dispute arose from the Southeast Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Commission's decision to sanction North Carolina for its alleged failure to comply with its obligations under a multistate compact.  The commission in 1986 designated North Carolina as the host state for a new regional waste-disposal facility to replace an existing facility in South Carolina.

In 2003, the Supreme Court granted Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Virginia and the commission leave to file a bill of complaint against North Carolina.  The Supreme Court assigned the case to a special master, who filed two reports.  The parties filed a total of nine exceptions to the reports on issues including monetary sanctions, arbitration and whether North Carolina took the appropriate steps to obtain a license for the facility.

Justice Antonin Scalia wrote the opinion adopting the special master's recommendations to grant North Carolina's motions to dismiss the claim for violation of the states' rights under the compact and for summary judgment on the breach of contract claim, and to deny without prejudice North Carolina's motions to dismiss the commission's claims on sovereign immunity grounds and for summary judgment on claims for unjust enrichment, promissory estoppel and "money had and received."

Justices John Paul Stevens, Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Samuel A. Alito Jr. joined in the opinion.  Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, Sonia Sotomayor, Clarence Thomas and Stephen G. Breyer concurred in part and dissented in part.

[Editor's Note:  Full coverage will be in the June issue of Mealey's Litigation Report: Pollution Liability.  In the meantime, the opinion is available at or by calling the Customer Support Department at 1-800-833-9844.  Document #08-100603-028Z.  For all of your legal news needs, please visit]

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