Pennsylvania given ok to restrict waste removal
In what is being viewed as a major victory for Pennsylvania
local and county governments, a Federal Appeals
Court has ruled that Lebanon County 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
James J. Kutz, a partner in the Harrisburg Office
of Philadelphia-based law firm Post & Schell,
P.C., which defended the GLRA in the complaint brought
against it by hauler Lebanon Farms Disposal, Inc.,
said the ruling reverses the 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 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.
In 2003 Lebanon Farms was fined by the GLRA for
violating Lebanon County’s disposal regulations
by transporting refuse to a landfill in Schuylkill
County, Pennsylvania. The hauler argued that it
was unlawful under the Commerce Clause for the county
to require it to use the county-owned landfill in
North Lebanon Township.
Kutz said the Appeals court relied heavily on the
2007 U.S. Supreme Court ruling in a New York case,
United Haulers Association Inc. vs. Oneida-Herkimer
Solid Waste Management Authority, to support its
opinion that the county and refuse authority acted
properly and did not discriminate against the hauler.
In Pennsylvania, local governments are required
under Act 101 (Management Waste Planning, Recycling
and Waste Reduction Act), to develop and adopt solid
waste flow plans and update them every 10 years.
Lebanon County’s 10-year plan was last revised for
the period 2001-2010 and it designated the county-owned
facility as the exclusive site for municipal trash
disposal in Lebanon County.