Supreme Court rules in Virginia uranium mining case

Published 9:55 am Wednesday, June 19, 2019

The Supreme Court of the United States issued a decision that will serve to protect the Roanoke River Basin, Buggs Island Lake, and the crucial water resources of the Commonwealth of Virginia on June 17.

In the case of Virginia Uranium Inc. v. Warren, the Court affirmed the holdings of lower federal courts that the federal Atomic Energy Act does not pre-empt Virginia’s own historic authority to prohibit the mining of uranium ore on private land. While the Atomic Energy Act regulates the milling of uranium, among other topics, it does not expressly authorize federal regulation of uranium mining. As the opinion by Justice Gorsuch states, “In this, as in any field of statutory interpretation, it is our duty to respect not only what Congress wrote but, as importantly, what it didn’t write.”

For the residents of the Roanoke River Basin, the Court’s decision is a particularly important one. Delegate Thomas C. Wright, Jr., Chairman of the Virginia State Water Commission, stated “I am very happy and relieved to hear about the Court’s decision to preserve Virginia’s traditional authority to determine when and whether to allow the mining of uranium. The waters of the Roanoke River Basin are essential as a source of clean drinking water, and they also provide tremendous recreational opportunities in Buggs Island Lake and Lake Gaston, a resource that is shared by both Virginia and North Carolina.”

Del. Tommy Wright can be reached via email at or (804) 698-1061.