Timeline April 1984

In LEAF (Legal Environmental Assistance Foundation) v. Hodel, the court ruled that DOE's Y-12 Plant in Tennessee was subject to the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act (RCRA) (see October 1976).

In early 1983, a federal employee charged there were pollution problems at DOE's Oak Ridge Reservation. In May 1983, DOE admitted it had released two million pounds of mercury from the Y-12 plant between 1950 and 1977. LEAF and the Natural Resources Defense Council took DOE to court.

DOE argued that one section of RCRA stated it did not apply to "any activity or substance" subject to the Atomic Energy Act of 1954. Therefore, DOE had concluded RCRA did not apply to the hazardous wastes generated by the nuclear weapon complex. DOE also argued that RCRA would require DOE to disclose classified information. Earlier, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) had accepted DOE's interpretation of the law. In Fall 1983, the new EPA administrator, William Ruckelhaus, charged that RCRA did indeed apply to DOE. Several months later DOE and EPA compromised. DOE facilities would not be subject to RCRA but would have to meet certain RCRA standards. This gave the EPA, but not the states, the right to inspect DOE facilities.

On April 13, 1984, the court found DOE in violation of RCRA at the Y-12 plant. Judge Robert Taylor stated, "The Court can no more assume that RCRA would require defendants to disclose restricted nuclear material data than it could assume that RCRA would require private business to disclose trade secrets." Though the decision applied only to the Y-12 plant, it implied that DOE would need to comply with RCRA across the country.