New York v. United States (1992)

The Low-Level Radioactive Waste Policy Amendment Act of 1985 encouraged states to provide for the disposal of the low-level radioactive waste or take ownership of the waste generated within its borders. There were three provisions provided in the act for state to comply: (1) a monetary incentive to encourage states to open their own waste sites; (2) an access incentive, where states without waste sites could be denied access to waste sites in other states; and (3) a take title incentive, where a state that did not arrange for disposal of its waste by a specific date would be required to take ownership of the waste. The third provision, called the take-title provision, said that the States would be liable for damages that might be incurred by the generator of the waste.

The issue of this case was whether or not the provisions of the act that mandated states to regulate the disposal of the low-level radioactive waste was unconstitutional according to the 10th amendment and whether or not Congress could direct States’ regulation in a particular field.

The Court upheld the first two provisions, saying he Commerce Clause allows Congress to use an incentives to encourage waste disposal. However, while Congress can encourage the disposal of the waste generated within their borders, Congress, however, cannot compel the States to do so, and this is what was reflected in the take-title provision. The Court decided this saying”

“The Tenth Amendment of the Constitution is violated when Congress directs states to regulate in a particular field and in a particular way. The Constitution does not authorize Congress to commandeer the state legislative process by compelling states to enact and enforce a federal regulatory program.

The take title provision is Congressional coercion. The monetary and access incentives are a permissible exercise of Congressional spending power. The take title provision gave a state two options. Either the state could (1) take title to the waste and risk whatever liability that followed, or (2) regulate the disposal according to the congressional mandate. Either way, the state would be forced to implement the federal regulatory scheme and would be agents of the federal government.

If Congress orders states to enact regulations, federal officials can avoid accountability if local citizens disapprove of the regulation.” (CaseBriefs)

Annotated External Links

“New York v. United States.” Casebriefs New York v United States Comments. N.p., n.d. Web.4

Dec. 2015.

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