South-Western Legal Studies in Business

State May Not Impede Interstate Transportation of Plutonium
Description Federal court held that the governor of South Carolina could not obtain an injunction to prevent the transportation of plutonium into the state by the Department of Energy and that an executive order issued by the governor to block such shipments into the state was unconstitutional under the Supremacy and Commerce Clauses.
Topic Constitutional Law
Key Words Supremacy Clause; Preemption; Commerce Clause
C A S E   S U M M A R Y
Facts The governor of South Carolina filed for an injunction to prevent any shipments of plutonium by the U.S. Department of Energy (DoE) to the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, which is used for storage of surplus weapons-grade plutonium. When the court held for the DoE, the governor issued an executive order prohibiting any transportation of plutonium on state roads. The DoE moved for injunctive relief against the governor.

Injunction granted. “This case presents a question which can be easily resolved by reference to a rather well known decision issued by the United States Supreme Court in 1819: McCulloch v. Maryland…. In that case, the Supreme Court addressed what is generally referred to as the ‘Supremacy Clause’ of the United States Constitution….” The executive order of the governor violates the Supremacy Clause. Federal officers are immune from state interference with acts necessary and proper to the accomplishment of their federal duties. Under the preemption doctrine, federal legislation preempts state action when state law conflicts with federal law. A state cannot interfere with a valid exercise of federal authority. The governor’s order also violated the Commerce Clause, as it discriminated against plutonium brought in from other states. State laws or regulations that expressly discriminate against interstate commerce by impeding the interstate transportation of products are virtually per se invalid.

Citation Abraham v. Hodges, --- F.Supp.2d --- (2002 WL 32068167, D., S.C.)

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