Facts of the Case

Provided by Oyez

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Management Act Amendments of 1985 required states alone or in compacts with other states to dispose of such radioactive waste within their borders. New York State and Allegany and Cortland counties were frustrated in their compliance efforts by resistance from residents to proposed radioactive waste sites and a lack of cooperation from neighboring states. New York filed suit against the federal government, questioning the authority of Congress to regulate state waste management.



  1. Does the Low-Level Waste Act violate the Tenth Amendment and the "guarantee clause" of Article Four?


  1. In a 6-3 decision, the Court upheld two of the three provisions of the Act under review, reasoning that Congress had the authority under the Commerce Clause to use financial rewards and access to disposal sites as incentives for state waste management. The third provision, the "take-title" qualification, stipulated that states must take legal ownership and liability for low-level waste or by the regulatory act. "Either type of federal action," wrote Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, "would 'commandeer' state governments into the service of federal regulatory purposes, and would for this reason be inconsistent with the Constitution's division of authority between federal and state governments." This last provision violated the Tenth Amendment.