WSJ: Yucca Mountain Decision Tames Obama's Lawlessness

Wednesday, 14 Aug 2013 01:00 PM

By Dan Weil

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Tuesday's court ruling in a case concerning a nuclear waste storage site properly placed restraint on President Barack Obama's penchant for ignoring laws as he sees fit, according to a Wall Street Journal editorial.

"It's good that the judiciary — a coequal branch of government, in case the administration forgot — is starting to check the White House," the Journal said in an editorial Wednesday.

The Washington, D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals decision was nominally about nuclear waste, Judge Brett Kavanaugh wrote in the decision. But the case "raises significant questions about the scope of the Executive's authority to disregard federal statutes," he added in his ruling.

The case concerned the proposed nuclear waste storage site at Nevada's Yucca Mountain, an Energy Department project that requires approval from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. The NRC is required by law to consider the license application for the facility and to issue a decision within three years of submission.

An application was filed with the NRC in June 2008. But Obama pledged to end the Yucca project while campaigning for the presidency, and the Energy Department sought to withdraw the license application after his election, the Journal noted.

"An NRC safety board made up of administrative judges ruled unanimously that this was illegal unless Congress passed a law authorizing it," the editorial continued.

"Although Congress appropriated money to conduct the review, the NRC flat-out refused, in violation of the three-year statutory deadline."

The Journal went on to note Judge Kavanaugh's opinion that the president can object on constitutional grounds from enforcing the law until it's decided in the courts. But, the judge also pointed out, "The president may not decline to follow a statutory mandate or prohibition simply because of policy objections."

"All of this highlights that Mr. Obama is not merely redefining this or that statute as he goes but also the architecture of the U.S. political system," the Journal editorial continued.

"The professors and pundits who fret about the imperial presidency go into hibernation when the president is a Democrat, so it is crucial that the courts reject Mr. Obama's increasing contempt for constitutional limits."

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