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AGO 1991 No. 1 - January 16, 1991
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Ken Eikenberry | 1981-1992 | Attorney General of Washington

HIGHWAYS AND ROADS ‑- STATE PATROL ‑- TRANSPORTATION OF RADIOACTIVE MATERIALS

RCW 46.68.200 restricts to the Legislature the authority to designate additional Washington ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste material.  RCW 46.48.200 expires when both the Washington Legislature and at least one other eligible state enact an interstate agreement on radioactive materials transportation management.  The enactment of the Pacific States Agreement on radioactive Material Transportation Management, codified in RCW 43.146.010, did not cause RCW 46.48.200 to expire.

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                                                                 January 16, 1991

Honorable Dean Sutherland
State Senator, District 17
405 John A. Cherberg Building
Olympia, WA 98504

                                                                                                                   Cite as:  AGO 1991 No. 1

 

Dear Senator Sutherland:

            By letter previously acknowledged, you have asked for our opinion on a question that we paraphrase as follows:

            Did the enactment of chapter 90, Laws of 1987, the Pacific States Agreement on Radioactive Materials Transportation Management, cause section 1, chapter 86, Laws of 1987, to expire?

            For the reasons set forth in the following analysis, we answer your question in the negative‑-the enactment of chapter 90, Laws of 1987, did not cause section 1, chapter 86, Laws of 1987 to expire.

                                                                     ANALYSIS

            Your question concerns the continuing vitality of section 1, chapter 86, Laws of 1987, codified as RCW 46.48.200.  This statute restricts to the Legislature the authority to designate additional Washington ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste materials.  Under its terms, this  [[Orig. Op. Page 2]] restriction remains in effect until the Washington Legislature and at least one other eligible state enact an interstate agreement on transportation management of radioactive material.  RCW 46.48.200 provides:

            Any additional ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste materials other than those designated by WAC 446-50-040 as filed on December 11, 1979, must be authorized by the state legislature.  This section shall expire when both the Washington state legislature and at least one other eligible state enact an interstate agreement on radioactive materials transportation management.1/

             The Pacific States Agreement on Radioactive Materials Transportation Management, about which you inquire, establishes a committee to develop model standards for consideration by party states, regarding transportation of radioactive waste materials and to promote coordination among party states in regulating transportation of radioactive waste materials.

            The crux of your question is whether the Pacific States Agreement on Radioactive Materials Transportation Management (Pacific States Agreement or Agreement) is an "interstate agreement on radioactive materials transportation management" of the nature referred to in RCW 46.48.200, such that enactment of the Agreement caused RCW 46.48.200 (quoted above) to expire.

            In our view, the answer to your question turns on what the Legislature meant in RCW 46.48.200 by an "interstate agreement on radioactive materials transportation management".  Once we determine the type of agreement that the Legislature contemplated in RCW 46.48.200, we then can examine whether the Pacific States Agreement is such an agreement.

            RCW 46.48.200 identifies in general terms, the kind of interstate agreement that the Legislature contemplated when it enacted this statute.  First, the statute states that the agreement is to be one regarding transportation management of  [[Orig. Op. Page 3]] radioactive materials.  Second, it is clear from the context of the statute that concern with the designation of additional Washington ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste materials motivated its enactment.  Indeed, the Legislature's purposes in enacting RCW 46.48.200 seem relatively clear.  The Legislature intended to exercise greater control over the designation of Washington ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste materials by placing in itself the exclusive power to authorize additional ports of entry.  In order to do so, the Legislature removed such authority from the Washington State Patrol.  The Legislature further intended that this restriction on the designation of additional ports of entry would expire when the Washington Legislature and another state enacted an agreement on radioactive materials transportation management.

            The language of the statute and its evident purposes, lead us to conclude that the Legislature had in mind in RCW 46.48.200 an agreement addressing or providing for the designation of ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive materials.  To conclude otherwise would mean that the very circumstance that the Legislature sought to remedy by RCW 46.48.200 would continue to exist.  That is, authority to designate ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste materials would return to the Washington State Patrol, without the Legislature having any heightened involvement in the designation or approval of such ports of entry.  It is well established that statutes are to be interpreted in a manner that furthers legislature intent and purposes and that avoids absurd or unlikely consequences.  State v. Neher, 112 Wn.2d 347, 771 P.2d 330 (1989).  Guided by these principles and the language of RCW 46.48.200, we conclude that implicit in the Legislature's reference to an "interstate agreement on radioactive materials transportation management" in RCW 46.48.200 is an agreement addressing or providing for the establishment of ports of entry for highway transportation of radioactive waste materials.  Only the enactment of such an interstate agreement would cause RCW 46.48.200 to expire.

            Having reached this conclusion, we now examine the Pacific States Agreement to determine whether it is an interstate agreement of the essential nature contemplated by RCW 46.48.200.  In our view, it is not.

            The Pacific States Agreement is codified in RCW 43.146.010.  As noted above, it was enacted by Washington in 1987 and by its terms, initially takes effect when it is enacted into law by two  [[Orig. Op. Page 4]] eligible party states.2/

            In addition to Washington, the states of Idaho, Oregon and Wyoming, all eligible states, have enacted the Pacific States Agreement.  See Idaho Code § 39-3029; Oregon Revised Statues 466.450; Wyoming Statutes § 37-14-101 et seq.

            The Pacific States Agreement contains the following statement of policy and purpose:

            It is the purpose of this agreement to establish a committee comprised of representatives from each party state to further cooperation between the states on emergency response and to coordinate activities by the states to eliminate unnecessary duplication of rules and regulations regarding the transportation and handling of radioactive material.

                       . . .  To accomplish this goal, the party states direct the committee to develop model regulatory standardsfor party states to act upon and direct the committee to coordinatedecisions by party states relating to the routing and inspection of shipments of radioactive material.

(Emphasis added.)

            The committee formed by the Agreement is named the Pacific States Radioactive Materials Transportation Committee and is comprised of one member from each party state who is appointed by the state's governor.  RCW 43.146.010, Art. IV.  As the above‑quoted statement of policy and purpose reflects, the Committee has two principal responsibilities.  First, the Committee is to develop model regulatory standards on certain subjects "for party states to act upon" (emphasis added).  Article III of the Agreement sets forth subjects for the Committee's model standards which include standards regarding information that carriers of radioactive material must provide, permit issuance, record-keeping and safety.  The second principal function of the Committee is to act as a harmonizing body, "to coordinatedecisions by party states relating to the routing and inspection of shipments of radioactive material."  (Emphasis added.)  RCW 43.146.010, Art. I.  Under the terms of the Pacific States Agreement, the party states merely are directed to:

             [[Orig. Op. Page 5]]

            [I]nform the committee of existing regulations concerning radioactive materials transportation management in their states, and . . . afford all parties a reasonable opportunity to review and comment upon any proposed modifications in such regulations.

            Neither these provisions nor any other provision contained in the Pacific States Agreement authorize the Committee to designate ports of entry for the highway transportation of radioactive waste materials.  Nor does the Agreement otherwise provide for the designation of such ports of entry.

            As discussed above, it is our opinion that RCW 46.48.200 refers to the enactment of an interstate agreement on radioactive materials transportation management that addresses or provides for the designation of ports of entry for the highway transportation of radioactive waste materials.  Because the Pacific States Agreement, RCW 43.146.010, is not such an agreement, we are of the opinion that its enactment did not cause RCW 46.48.200 to expire.

            We trust that the foregoing will be of assistance to you.

Very truly yours,

KENNETH O. EIKENBERRY
Attorney General

Maureen Hart
Senior Assistant Attorney General

                                                         ***   FOOTNOTES   ***

1/WAC 446-50-040, referenced in this statute, is a regulation promulgated by the Washington State Patrol under rule‑making authority granted to it by RCW 46.48.170.  This rule designates only two ports of entry into Washington for carriers of radioactive waste materials.  The first is located on Interstate 90 near the Idaho border in Spokane County.  The second is on Washington State Route 14 near the Oregon border in Benton County.

2/States eligible to become parties to the Pacific States Agreement are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.  RCW 43.146.010, Art. 5.

 

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