Civil Procedure II, Pages 824–828

Natural Resources Defense Council v. United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission

United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit, 1978

Facts:

The Atomic Energy Act of 1954 authorized defendant Nuclear Regulatory Commission to grant licenses for the operation of uranium mills and to allow the NRC to allow states to issue such licenses. The National Environmental Policy Act requires that an environmental study to be done before major federal action is taken, such as the NRC issuing a license. However, the NRC entered an agreement with defendant New Mexico Environmental Improvement Agency to allow them to grant licenses, and they are not required to do environmental studies beforehand. Plaintiffs seek declaratory and injunctive relief to prohibit the NMEIA from issuing licenses without doing such studies.

United Nuclear moved to intervene in the suit and was allowed to without being opposed. Kerr-McGee and four other companies then also move to intervene as of right, but were denied on the grounds that United Nuclear would adequately represent their interests. Permissive intervention was also denied. Kerr-McGee and United Nuclear appealed.

Issue:

Was the denial of intervention correct?

Rule:

FRCP 24(a)(2) bases intervention as of right on:

  1. Whether the applicant claims an interest relating to the property or transaction which is the subject of the action.
  2. Whether the claimants are so situated that the disposition of the action may as a practical matter impair or impede their ability to protect that interest.
  3. Whether their interest is not adequately represented by existing parties.

Reasoning:

  • An outcome for the plaintiffs could have a profound effect upon Kerr-McGee, as it is one of the largest uranium property holders in New Mexico.

  • If plaintiffs' reliefs is granted, it would affect Kerr-McGee's interests with its stare decisis effect and perhaps more directly since NRC and NMEIA are parties. The requirements for getting a uranium mining license would be relatively the same in every instance.

  • United Nuclear has been granted its license. There is a chance that United Nuclear would argue that environmental studies should be done but only future licenses to place itself over its competition. No two applicants can be said for sure that they have identical interests, and the difference in interests does not need to be great to satisfy the applicant's burden.

    In addition, the more parties in the case, the more that are directly bound by the result thereof. The more interests represented the more fully the defense will be supplemented as well.

    The trial would not need to become unwieldy. United Nuclear, Kerr-McGee, and the American Mining Congress would be enough parties to have intervene to get adequate representation.

Holding:

No, the intervention should have been allowed. Reversed and remanded.

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