United Haulers Assoc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Authority
The plaintiff, a not-for-profit corporation comprised of solid waste management companies, sued the New York counties of Oneida and Herkhimer under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, claiming that county ordinances regulating the collection, processing, transfer and disposal of solid waste violate the dormant Commerce Clause. The flow control regulations require all solid wastes and recyclables generated within Oneida and Herkhimer counties to be delivered to one of several waste processing facilities owned by the Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority (“the Authority”), a municipal corporation. The Plaintiff argued that these ordinances burden interstate commerce by requiring garbage delivery to an in-state facility, as this restriction necessarily prevents the use of facilities outside the Counties and diminishes the interstate trade in waste and waste disposal services.
The district court rule in favor of the Counties, and the Second Circuit Court of Appeals affirmed. The court declined to find whether the Counties’ flow control ordinances impose a cognizable burden on interstate commerce by preventing the waste generated within the Counties from being exported for processing. Instead, it assumed that a burden on interstate commerce exists, but found that any such burden was far exceeded by the local benefits of the ordinances (sanitation, environmental, and health benfits).
The Court held in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383, 386 (1994), that “a so-called flow control ordinance, which require[d] all solid waste to be processed at a designated transfer station before leaving the municipality,’ discriminated against interstate commerce and was invalid under the Commerce Clause because it “depriv[ed] competitors, including out-of-state firms, of access to a local market.” This case presents two questions, the first of which is the subject of an acknowledged circuit conflict:
1. Whether the virtually per se prohibition against “hoard[ing] solid waste” (id. at 392) recognized in Carbone is inapplicable when the “preferred processing facility” (ibid.) is owned by a public entity;
2. Whether a flow-control ordinance that requires delivery of all solid waste to a publicly owned local facility and thus prohibits its exportation imposes so “insubstantial” a burden on interstate commerce that the provision satisfies the Commerce Clause if it serves even a “minimal” local benefit.