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Boeing Co. v. Movassaghi

United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit

May 31, 20131, Submitted, Pasadena, California; September 19, 2014, Filed

No. 11-55903


 [*834]  KLEINFELD, Senior Circuit Judge:

We affirm the district court's decision that a California law governing cleanup of a federal nuclear site violates the doctrine of intergovernmental immunity. Because we decide that the state law impermissibly regulates and discriminates [**3]  against the federal government and its contractor, we do not reach the question of whether the federal laws governing nuclear materials and cleanup of hazardous substances preempted the state law. We need not reach Boeing's Section 1983 claim for a declaratory judgment and an injunction.


The federal government made and tested rockets, nuclear reactors, and various nuclear applications for war and peace at the Santa Susana Field Laboratory beginning shortly after World War II. When built in the 1940s, this lab was far from people, thirty miles from Los Angeles in Ventura County. Los Angeles grew, though, and now over 150,000 people live within five miles of the site and half a million people live within ten miles.

When the state law challenged in this case was promulgated, 452 acres of the 2,850 acre lab site were federally owned and managed by the National Aeronautics and Space Association ("NASA"). Most of the site, the remainder, was owned by Boeing, a defense contractor, which acquired  [*835]  the land from another defense contractor, Rockwell International Corporation, in 1996. Rockwell International and its predecessor, North American Aviation, had occupied or owned the land since 1947. (For convenience, [**4]  we refer to Boeing and its predecessors, Rockwell International and North American Aviation, as "Boeing.") Since the 1950s, the federal Department of Energy ("DOE") and its predecessor agencies have leased 90 acres of the site from Boeing, where it built and operated 16 nuclear reactors of various sorts and over 200 facilities for nuclear research.

These two federal agencies, DOE and NASA, hired Boeing to assist in the nuclear research and rocket testing. Most of Boeing's work was as a contractor on behalf of the federal government, though it also did some commercial work on its own account at the site. Boeing operated one commercial nuclear reactor under a license from the Atomic Energy Commission. It also handled what the California statute calls "radiological contaminants" under licenses from the State of California to perform activities involving the use of x-ray machines, calibration devices, gas chromatographs, smoke detectors, and various gauges.

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768 F.3d 832 *; 2014 U.S. App. LEXIS 18016 **

THE BOEING COMPANY, Plaintiff-Appellee, v. MAZIAR MOVASSAGHI, in his official capacity as the Acting Director of the California Dept. Of Toxic Substances Control; LEONARD ROBINSON, in his official capacity as the Acting Director of the California Dept. Of Toxic Substances Control, Defendants, and DEBBIE RAPHAEL, in her official capacity as the Acting Director of the California Dept. Of Toxic Substances Control, Defendant-Appellant.

Prior History:  [**1] Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. D.C. No. 2:10-cv-04839-JFW-MAN. John F. Walter, District Judge, Presiding.

Boeing Co. v. Robinson, 2011 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 52507 (C.D. Cal., 2011)


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Business & Corporate Compliance, Energy & Utilities Law, Nuclear Power Industry, Atomic Energy Act, Energy & Utilities Law, Disposal, Storage & Transport, Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances, Radioactive Substances, Federal & State Regulatory Authority, Environmental Law, Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, General Overview, Civil Procedure, Appeals, Standards of Review, De Novo Review, Summary Judgment Review, Standards of Review, Justiciability, Standing, Personal Stake, Constitutional Law, Supremacy Clause, Federal Versus State Law, Public Contracts Law, Governmental Immunities, Licenses & Permits, CERCLA & Superfund, Cleanup