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An Introduction to Constitutional Law » New York v. United States

An introduction to Constitutional Law 100 Supreme Court cases everyone should know

Randy E. Barnett & Josh Blackman

In 1985, only three states had facilities that disposed of low-level radioactive waste. In response to this critical shortage, Congress created incentives for states to pro- vide for waste generated within their borders. The most severe incentive was the so-called “Take Title” provision. If a state could not provide a disposal facility, the state must take title, or ownership, of waste generated by private parties in the state. Furthermore, the state would be liable for all damages that resulted from the waste.

New York challenged the constitutionality of this law. The state acknowledged that the federal government could regulate the interstate waste market. However, New York maintained that Congress could not force the state to take ownership of private radioactive waste.

The Supreme Court agreed. Justice O’Connor wrote the majority opinion.

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