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Waste Management Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore

Citation: 30 ELR 20090
No. No. 3:99CV425, 64 F. Supp. 2d 537/(E.D. Va., 08/30/1999) motion to dismiss

The court holds that waste management companies that own landfills in Virginia may bring suit to enjoin the enforcement of several recently enacted state statutes aimed at curtailing the flow of out-of-state municipal solid waste into the state. Landfills, which are privately operated under contracts between voluntary host counties and the companies, were built with the expectation that they would accept substantial quantities of out-of-state waste to meet revenue needs and to return a profit. The court first holds that host agreements between the host counties and the companies are not ultra vires and, thus, the companies have standing to challenge the statutes. The state legislature authorized counties to contract with any person to provide adequate waste disposal facilities, and the host agreements did not exceed such authority. The court then holds that the state cannot invoke sovereign immunity as a defense because as in this case, a suit in federal court to enjoin a state officer from enforcing an unconstitutional statute is not a suit against the state for purposes of the Eleventh Amendment.

The court next dismisses the state's defenses to the companies' U.S. Commerce Clause claims. The legislative history and broad language of the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act relied on by the state do not express an unmistakably clear intent to exempt state laws relating to solid waste from the dormant Commerce Clause. Similarly, the state is not a market participant because it is attempting to regulate the conduct of others in the market as only a state could do. The court then holds that the companies' Contract Clause claims must be dismissed because they fail to allege an impairment on the obligations of a contract. The companies' allegations merely suggest that the statutes at issue will make their contracts less profitable than expected, make performance less desirable, or even make performance impossible. The court further holds that the companies can bring Supremacy Clause and Equal Protection claims based on the statutes.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert L. Bronston
Mayer, Brown & Platt
2000 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20006
(202) 463-2000

Counsel for Defendants
Deborah L. Feild
Attorney General's Office
900 E. Main St., Richmond VA 23219
(804) 786-2071