As reported by the U.S.-based Waste Business Journal, the U.S. Supreme Court has ruled that North Carolina does not have to pay $80 million for withdrawing from an eight-state nuclear waste compact.
North Carolina was one of eight states to agree to the Southeast Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Compact, approved by Congress in 1986.
The compact was administered by a commission which designated North Carolina as a host state and declared it “appropriate and necessary” for other states to provide financial assistance, which totaled nearly $80 million by 1997.
At that point, the commission withdrew additional funding pending a plan by the state to finance the remainder of the facility and even obtain a license. Without additional funding, North Carolina then withdrew from the compact. The commission responded by sanctioning the state $90 million for breaching the compact.
By 2003, only four states remained in the compact – Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Virginia. They joined the commission in asking the Supreme Court to file a bill of complaint against North Carolina. The high court agreed and assigned the case to Special Master Bradford Clark, who urged the justices to dismiss the complaint.
Clark said the commission had no power to sanction North Carolina, and even if it did, North Carolina had withdrawn from the compact before sanctions were imposed.
The primary opinion from Justice Antonin Scalia agreed with the master that the compact’s terms did not allow the commission to impose monetary sanctions on North Carolina under “sovereign immunity.”