MR. JUSTICE MARSHALL delivered the opinion of the Court.
The issue in this case is whether the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has the authority under the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), as amended in 1972, 86 Stat. 816, 33 U. S. C. § 1251 et seq. (1970 ed., Supp. IV), to regulate the discharge into the
Respondents are Colorado-based organizations and Colorado residents who claim potential harm from the discharge of radioactive effluents from two nuclear plants—the Fort St. Vrain Nuclear Generating Station and the Rocky Flats nuclear weapons components plant. These facilities are operated in conformity with radioactive effluent standards imposed by the AEC pursuant to the Atomic Energy Act. The dispute in this case arises because the EPA has disclaimed any authority under the FWPCA to set standards of its own to govern the discharge of radioactive materials subject to regulation under the AEA. Respondents, taking issue with the EPA'S disclaimer of authority, brought this suit against petitioners, the EPA and its Administrator, under § 505 of the FWPCA, 33 U. S. C. § 1365 (1970 ed., Supp. IV), which authorizes "citizen suits" against the Administrator for failure to perform nondiscretionary duties under the FWPCA. They sought a declaration that the definition of a "pollutant" under the FWPCA encompasses all radioactive materials, including those regulated under the terms of the AEA, and an injunction directing the EPA and its Administrator to regulate the discharge of all such radioactive materials.
On cross-motions for summary judgment, the United States District Court for the District of Colorado held that the AEC had exclusive authority to regulate discharges of radioactive materials covered by the AEA.
Since 1946, when the first Atomic Energy Act was passed, 60 Stat. 755, the Federal Government has exercised control over the production and use of atomic energy through the AEC—replaced since the commencement of this litigation by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA).
The comprehensive regulatory scheme created by the AEA embraces the production, possession, and use of three types of radioactive materials—source material,
The term "pollutant" is defined by the FWPCA to include, inter alia, "radioactive materials."
It was the Administrator's exclusion of source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials from the permit program, and consequent refusal to regulate them, that
The Court of Appeals resolved the question exclusively by reference to the language of the statute. It observed that the FWPCA defines "pollution" as "the man-made or man-induced alteration of the chemical, physical, biological, and radiological integrity of water." 33 U. S. C. § 1362 (19) (1970 ed., Supp. IV). And it noted that the reference to "radioactive materials" in the definition of "pollutant" was without express qualification or exception, despite the fact that the overall definition of "pollutant" does contain two explicit exceptions.
To the extent that the Court of Appeals excluded
Before turning to the various legislative materials, however, we pause to consider an additional argument asserted by respondents on the basis of the language of the statute. Section 1311 (f), they note, provides as follows:
Respondents suggest that it would be inconsistent for Congress in one section of the FWPCA to prohibit the discharge of "radiological warfare agents" and "high-level radioactive waste," both of which are subject to AEA regulation, while at the same time exempting AEA-regulated materials from the FWPCA'S permit program. We see no inconsistency. That Congress has chosen to ban completely the discharge of certain high-level radioactive material regulated under the AEA does not, by itself, indicate whether Congress wanted the discharge of other radioactive material regulated under the AEA to be
The legislative history of the FWPCA speaks with force to the question whether source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials are "pollutants" subject to the Act's permit program. The House Committee Report was quite explicit on the subject:
Respondents claim to find in the Senate Committee Report an indication that the statutory definition of "pollutant" embraces radioactive materials subject to AEA regulation. Section 306 of the Senate bill, which corresponds to 33 U. S. C. § 1316 (1970 ed., Supp. IV), required that the EPA Administrator establish "standards of performance" with respect to the discharge of pollutants from specified categories of sources, to be revised from time to time by the Administrator. The Senate Committee Report noted that nuclear fuels processing plants were not included, because the EPA did not then have "the technical capability to establish controls for such plants." S. Rep. No. 92-414, p. 59 (1971), 2 Leg. Hist. 1477. The Report then observed that the Committee "expects that EPA will develop the capability," and continued:
Petitioners assert that this statement by the Committee has no bearing on the question before the Court. The statement, petitioners suggest, reflects no more than a recognition, shared by them, that the plants referred to were not intended to be wholly excluded from the reach of the FWPCA—a recognition that in their view means that the EPA can control the discharge from such plants of polluting materials other than source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials. In short, petitioners contend that the statement sheds no light on the question whether source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials are pollutants under the FWPCA.
We agree with the petitioners that the Senate Committee statement is addressed to the inclusion of nuclear fuels processing plants in the category of sources subject to the EPA'S control, not to the inclusion of any particular materials within the definition of "pollutant." It is true that the reference to the development of control levels by the Bureau of Radiological Health
A colloquy on the Senate floor between Senator Pastore, the Chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, and Senator Muskie, the FWPCA'S primary author, provides a strong indication that Congress did not intend the FWPCA to alter the AEC'S control over the discharge of source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials. Senator Pastore, referring to the need to define what materials are "subject to control requirements" under the FWPCA, noted that the definition of "pollutant" included the words "radioactive materials." 2 Leg. Hist. 1265. The following exchange then took place:
Respondents contend that this colloquy "merely reiterates that the FWPCA does not alter the regulatory authority of the AEC" over source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials. Brief for Respondents 40-41. The exchange, they assert, says nothing about the EPA'S authority to regulate the same materials. The discussion is consistent, they claim, with their position that the AEC must defer to the EPA in the setting of effluent limitations for AEA-regulated materials—that, for example, NRC licenses must conform to permits issued under the FWPCA. We disagree.
The thrust of Senator Muskie's assurances that the FWPCA would not "in any way affect" the regulatory powers of the AEC was, we think, that the AEC was to retain full authority to regulate the materials covered by the AEA, unaltered by the exercise of regulatory authority by any agency under the FWPCA. This conclusion is reinforced by Senator Muskie's reference to the case of Northern States Power Co. v. Minnesota, 447 F.2d 1143 (CA8 1971). In that case, which was subsequently
In the course of the House's consideration of the FWPCA, an unsuccessful attempt was made to alter the AEA'S scheme for regulating the discharge of the radioactive materials involved in this case. Representative Wolff proposed to amend what is now 33 U. S. C. § 1370 (1970 ed., Supp. IV), which gives States the authority to set more stringent limits on the discharge of pollutants, by adding a paragraph giving the States the authority to regulate the discharge of radioactive wastes from nuclear power plants. The debate on that amendment and its defeat by a 3-to-1 vote provide solid
The Wolff amendment, according to its author, would "give the States a voice in deciding what kinds and amounts of such radioactive wastes may be discharged into their waters." 1 Leg. Hist. 544. In explaining the need for such an amendment, Representative Wolff noted that the time had come "to seriously consider standards more stringent than those promulgated by the AEC." Id., at 545. Representative Frenzel, a co-sponsor of the amendment, pictured it as an attempt to alter the result in the Northern States case. The AEC, he explained, could not be expected to protect the health and safety of the public as effectively as the States, because "the AEC has a dual mission—that of promotion as well as safety." 1 Leg. Hist. 548.
The opponents of the Wolff Amendment voiced strong opposition to the transfer of the AEC'S regulatory authority to the States or to the EPA. Representative Stanton, a Member of the House Committee on Public Works, which reported the House bill, stated:
Representative Price, Vice Chairman of the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, argued against the amendment as follows:
Representative McCormack, a Member of the House Committee on Public Works and Chairman of the House Science and Astronautics Committee's Task Force on Energy Research and Development, urged the amendment's defeat in similar terms. After noting the inadvisability of "throwing away" the AEC'S "meticulous work" in the area of safety in favor of state regulation, id., at 550, he concluded:
Respondents urge that the Wolff amendment was addressed only to the question of the States' regulatory authority, and that its defeat did not reflect any intent to foreclose regulation of source, byproduct, and special nuclear materials by the EPA. We do not agree that
The House's rather explicit statement of intent to exclude AEA-regulated materials from the FWPCA was unchallenged by the Conference Committee, which simply retained the same reference to "radioactive materials" contained in both the House and Senate bills. S. Conf. Rep. No. 92-1236, p. 144 (1972), 1 Leg. Hist. 327. Representative Harsha, a ranking member of the Conference Committee, explained the import of the Conference Committee action as follows:
See also id., at 229 (remarks of Rep. Jones). With no one expressing a different view of the Conference action, the House proceeded to agree to the Conference Report. Id., at 276.
If it was not clear at the outset, we think it abundantly clear after a review of the legislative materials that reliance on the "plain meaning" of the words "radioactive materials" contained in the definition of "pollutant" in the FWPCA contributes little to our understanding of
MR. JUSTICE STEVENS took no part in the consideration or decision of this case.
Michael S. Baram, pro se, filed a brief for Michael S. Baram et al. as amici curiae urging affirmance.
A brief of amici curiae was filed by Evelle J. Younger, Attorney General, Robert H. O'Brien, Assistant Attorney General, and Nicholas C. Yost, C. Foster Knight, and Janet I. Motley, Deputy Attorneys General, for the State of California, joined by the Attorneys General and other officials for their respective States as follows: John P. Moore, Attorney General of Colorado, and David Robbins, First Assistant Attorney General; Robert L. Shevin, Attorney General of Florida, and Kenneth F. Hoffman, Assistant Attorney General; Curt Schneider, Attorney General of Kansas, and Thomas Wobker, Assistant Attorney General; Francis B. Burch, Attorney General of Maryland, and Warren K. Rich, Assistant Attorney General; Francis X. Bellotti, Attorney General of Massachusetts; Frank J. Kelley, Attorney General of Michigan, Robert A. Derengoski, Solicitor General, and Stewart H. Freeman, Assistant Attorney General; Warren R. Spannaus, Attorney General of Minnesota, Peter W. Sipkins, Solicitor General, and Eldon G. Kaul, Assistant Attorney General; John C. Danforth, Attorney General of Missouri, and Robert M. Lindholm, Assistant Attorney General; Warren B. Rudman, Attorney General of New Hampshire, and Donald Stever, Assistant Attorney General; Louis J. Lefkowitz, Attorney General of New York, and John Shea III, Assistant Attorney General; Michael Alushin, Attorney General of Pennsylvania; John L. Hill, Attorney General of Texas, and Douglas Caroom, Assistant Attorney General; and Slade Gorton, Attorney General of Washington, and Charles B. Roe, Senior Assistant Attorney General.
"It is the policy of the Congress to recognize, preserve, and protect the primary responsibilities and rights of States to prevent, reduce, and eliminate pollution, to plan the development and use (including restoration, preservation, and enhancement) of land and water resources, and to consult with the Administrator in the exercise of his authority under this chapter. It is further the policy of the Congress to support and aid research relating to the prevention, reduction, and elimination of pollution and to provide Federal technical services and financial aid to State and interstate agencies and municipalities in connection with the prevention, reduction, and elimination of pollution."
It should not escape mention that one supporter of the Wolff amendment, Representative McClory, urged its adoption "in order to make eminently clear that we are controlling nuclear . . . pollution in this bill." Id., at 555. To the extent that this statement suggested that the amendment merely clarified what the House bill already provided, it is a far less persuasive indicator of legislative intent than the contrary statements by the successful opponents of the amendment. Similarly, Representative Frenzel's statement the day after the Wolff amendment was defeated that the FWPCA applied to AEA-regulated radioactive materials, 1 Leg. Hist. 745-746, is not entitled to great weight.
"The functions of the Atomic Energy Commission under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, . . . [that] consist of establishing generally applicable environmental standards for the protection of the general environment from radioactive material. As used herein, standards mean limits on radiation exposures or levels, or concentrations or quantities of radioactive material, in the general environment outside the boundaries of locations under the control of persons possessing or using radioactive material." § 2 (a) (6), 84 Stat. 2088, 5 U. S. C. App., p. 610.
In his message accompanying the reorganization plan, President Nixon emphasized that the AEC was to "retain responsibility for the implementation and enforcement of radiation standards through its licensing authority." 5 U. S. C. App., p. 612. Petitioners' brief, expressing the views of the EPA, NRC, and ERDA, explains the resultant division of authority as follows:
"EPA was to set generally applicable radiation standards, limiting the total amount of permissible radiation in the environment from major categories of sources, while the AEC was to prescribe the limitations applicable to discharges of licensed materials from particular sources which contribute to the total." Brief for Petitioners 52-53 (citations omitted).
See AEC-EPA Memoranda of Understanding, 38 Fed. Reg. 24936, 32965 (1973). See also Environmental Protection Agency, Proposed Standards for Environmental Radiation Protection for Nuclear Power Operations, 40 Fed. Reg. 23419 (1975).