Train v. Colorado Pub. Int. Research Group, Inc.
426 U.S. 1 (1976)

Annotate this Case

U.S. Supreme Court

Train v. Colorado Pub. Int. Research Group, Inc., 426 U.S. 1 (1976)

Train v. Colorado Public Interest Research Group, Inc.

No. 74-1270

Argued December 9, 1975

Decided June 1, 1976

426 U.S. 1

Syllabus

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA) makes it unlawful to discharge "pollutants" into navigable waters without a permit from the Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and defines the term "pollutant" to include, inter alia, "radioactive materials." The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) regulates the production, possession, and use of three types of radioactive materials -- source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials -- and, pursuant to its authority under the AEA, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) (now succeeded in this capacity by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission) has issued regulations governing the discharge of such materials into the environment by AEA licensees. After the EPA Administrator had disclaimed any authority under the FWPCA to regulate the discharge of these three types of radioactive materials covered by the AEA, respondents, who claimed potential harm from the discharge of radioactive effluents from two nuclear plants in Colorado operated in conformity with AEC standards, brought suit against petitioners,

Page 426 U. S. 2

the EPA and its Administrator, seeking a declaration that the definition of "pollutant" under the FWPCA encompasses all radioactive materials, including those regulated under the AEA, and an injunction directing petitioners to regulate the discharge of all such materials. The District Court held that the AEC had exclusive authority to regulate discharges of radioactive materials covered by the AEA, but the Court of Appeals reversed, holding, exclusively by reference to the FWPCA's language and without reference to its legislative history, that the FWPCA requires the EPA to regulate discharges of all radioactive materials, including those covered by the AEA.

Held:

1. To the extent that the Court of Appeals excluded reference to the FWPCA's legislative history in discerning the meaning of the statute, the court was in error, for,

"[w]hen aid to construction of the meaning of words, as used in the statute, is available, there certainly can be no 'rule of law' which forbids its use, however clear the words may appear on 'superficial examination.'"

United States v. American Trucking Assns.,310 U. S. 534, 310 U. S. 543-544. Pp. 426 U. S. 9-11.

2. The FWPCA's legislative history reflects a congressional intention not to alter the AEC's control over the discharge of source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials. Therefore, the "pollutants" subject to regulation under the FWPCA do not include such materials, and the EPA Administrator acted in accordance with his statutory mandate in declining to regulate the discharge of these materials. Pp. 426 U. S. 11-25.

507 F.2d 743, reversed.

MARSHALL, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which all Members joined except STEVENS, J., who took no part in the consideration or decision of the case.

Page 426 U. S. 3

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