Thursday, August 21, 2008

Court ruling could shake up garbage flow

A federal appeals court ruled this month that Lebanon County, PA and its affiliated Greater Lebanon Refuse Authority (GLRA) did not act improperly when they required a private municipal trash hauler to use the county's landfill even though there were cheaper disposal alternatives outside the county.

The ruling that could have impacts in both Pennsylvania and New Jersey where so-called "waste-flow" rules directing all haulers to specific county transfer stations or landfills have been the subject of numerous challenges in federal court.

The landmark "Carbone" decision in 1994 invalidated the bulk of government waste-flow plans as violations of interstate commerce, but subsequent decisions have allowed local governments to direct waste to their facilities under certain conditions.

James J. Kutz, Esq., a Partner in the Harrisburg Office of Philadelphia-based law firm Post & Schell, P.C., which defended GLRA in the complaint brought against it by hauler Lebanon Farms Disposal, Inc., of Schaefferstown, Pa., said the ruling reverses a July 2006 U.S. District Court decision that found the county's comprehensive solid waste plan unconstitutional because it discriminated against interstate commerce.

"The appeals court decision constitutes a clear change in Third Circuit (Pennsylvania, Delaware, and New Jersey) precedent," commented Kutz. "Counties can now require that all waste generated within the county be disposed of at their municipal landfill.

"Previously, counties were prohibited from imposing such a restriction absent compelling circumstances." Kutz added, "The ruling gives the Commonwealth and its counties a new, reasonable option with which to finance, monitor, and enforce environmentally sound waste disposal practices without running afoul of the federal Commerce Clause." He noted that the appeals court remanded the matter to the lower court.

This blog counts among its subscribers numerous environmental attorneys and consultants who are experts in the area of solid waste management. If you're one of them, we'd love to hear your
opinion on the decision and its possible impacts in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

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