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Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Todd Berman

InstructorTodd Berman

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Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc. v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

Citation. 578 F.2d 1341, 1978 U.S. App. 25 Fed. R. Serv. 2d (Callaghan) 1030; 12 ERC (BNA) 1306
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Brief Fact Summary.

American Mining Congress and Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation (Appellants), seek to review the order of the United States District Court of the District of New Mexico denying their motions to intervene as a matter of right or on a permissive basis.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

A party seeking intervention must prove that they have an interest in the litigation, that their interest would be impaired if they were unable to intervene, and that the Defendants do not adequately represent their interests.


The original action in which movants requested intervention was commenced by Plaintiff, Natural Resources Defense Counsel, Inc., (Plaintiff) seeking declaratory and injunctive relief on behalf of the Defendants, United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the New Mexico Environmental Improvement Agency (NMEIA) (Defendants), prohibiting those agencies from issuing licenses for the operation of uranium mills in New Mexico without first writing environmental impact statements. Under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (Act), Congress authorized the NRC, to issue licenses. Under Section 274(b) of the Act, the Defendant is authorized to enter into agreements with the states allowing the states to issue licenses. These agreements have been made with about twenty-five states including New Mexico. This action seeks to prevent the use of Section 274(b) in order to avoid the requirement of an impact statement. 42 U.S.C. Section: 4332(2)(C) requires that a detailed environmental impact statement be prepared by the federal agencies in every recommendation or report affecting the quality of the environment. The complaint alleges that Defendant only prepares these statements if the states have not entered into agreement with Defendant. On the other hand, they do not prepare these statements where there is an agreement with a state such as New Mexico. The complaint further alleges that the granting of licenses to state agencies by the Defendant eliminates the need of the state agency to prepare environmental impact statements since it is not a federal agency. The relief sought by the Plaintiff is that the Defendant’s involvement in the licensing procedure is sufficient to constitute major federal action. Plaintiffs also seek declaration that the New Mexico program is in conflict with the Act if an impact statement is not required with the granting of licenses. The motion of UNC to intervene was not opposed by the parties and was granted. On the date the complaint was filed, UNC was granted a license to operate a uranium mill in New Mexico and thus the complaint seeks to enjoin the issuance of the license. Motion to Intervene on behalf of Kerr-McGee Nuclear Corporation, Anaconda Company, Gulf Oil Corporation, Philips Petroleum Company and the American Mining Congress was denied on the grounds that the interests of the parties would be adequately represented by UNC.


Whether the interests of the parties seeking to intervene were adequately represented by a fellow member of the industry?


No. Judgment reversed and the cause is remanded with instructions to the trial court to grant Appellants’ Motion to Intervene. The interests of the movant in the subject matter are sufficient to satisfy the requirements of Rule 24 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure and the threat of loss of their interest and inability to participate is great enough to impair the ability to advance their interests. There are three requirements of Rule 24 that must be satisfied in order for the Appellants to obtain an intervention. The appellants must prove that the have sufficient interest in the litigation; that their inability to participate is great enough to impair their interests; and that the Defendant does not adequately represent their interests. Appellants have the requisite interest in the issuance and delivery of the license, which constitutes a genuine threat to the appellants. Another interest of Appellants is that one of the consequences of the litigation could be the requirement that an environmental impact standard should be prepared before granting a uranium license or the agreement between the Appellee and the Appellant could be terminated. Rule 24 does not require that that a movant in intervention have a direct interest in the outcome of the case. However, the interest must be a significant protectable interest. Appellants have also satisfied the impairment criteria of Rule 24 in that the considerations for requiring an impact statement are relatively the same in respect to the issuance of a uranium mining license. Rule 24 refers to impairment as a practical matter. The Defendants may not adequately represent the interests of the Appellants. While their interests appear to be small, there is no way to say that the Appellant’s interests will not in some way differ from the Defendant and there is no requirement that the divergence of interest need to be great to satisfy the burden of the intervening party. Another reason for intervention is that there is some value in having the parties be bound by the result. After looking at the three requirements for intervention, it is clear that the Appellants have satisfied the three requirements and therefore should be allowed to intervene.


Intervention is a device for an outsider who has an interest in the litigation to join as a party voluntarily.

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