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Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Energy Resources Commission

"swords Into Plowshares", Pacific Gas Takes On The Energy Commission, An Economic Issue, Not A Safety Issue


Pacific Gas & Electric Company


State Energy Resources Conservation and Development Committee of California

Petitioner's Claim

That two California statutes governing development of nuclear power plants were preempted by the federal Atomic Energy Act of 1954 and were thus invalid under the Supremacy Clause of the Constitution.

Chief Lawyer for Petitioner

John R. McDonough

Chief Lawyer for Respondent

Laurence H. Tribe

Justices for the Court

Harry A. Blackmun, William J. Brennan, Jr., Warren E. Burger, Thurgood Marshall, Lewis F. Powell, Jr., William H. Rehnquist, Sandra Day O'Connor, John Paul Stevens, Byron R. White (writing for the Court)

Justices Dissenting



Washington, D.C.

Date of Decision

20 April 1983


The Court having judged that one of the two statutes was not ripe for review, held that the remaining California law did not conflict with the authority of the federal government because it addressed issues of economics, not nuclear safety.


Pacific Gas & Electric Co. v. Energy Resources Commission provides a judicial framework for evaluating the limits of state and federal law with regard to specific areas of authority. In its review of the case, the Court applied a test--assessing the conflict, if any, between state and federal policies--that promised to offer guidelines for other cases involving preemption of federal authority.

Related Cases

  • Power Reactor Development Co. v. Electrical Workers, 367 U.S. 396 (1961).
  • Metropolitan Edison v. People Against Nuclear Energy, 460 U.S. 766 (1983).
  • Silkwood v. Kerr-McGee Corp., 464 U.S. 238 (1984).
  • New York v. United States, 505 U.S. 144 (1992).

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationNotable Trials and Court Cases - 1981 to 1988