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National Elec. Mfrs. Ass'n v. Sorrell

Citation: 32 ELR 20272
No. No. 99-9450, 272 F.3d 104/53 ERC 1385/(2d Cir., 11/06/2001)

The court vacates a preliminary injunction barring enforcement of a Vermont labeling statute as it applies to manufacturers of mercury-containing light bulbs. The court first holds that the lamp manufacturing association challenging the statute failed to show a likelihood of success on the merits of its U.S. Commerce Clause claim. A regulation may disproportionately burden interstate commerce if it has the practical effect of requiring out-of-state commerce to be conducted at the regulating state's direction. The statute, however, does not require manufacturers to label all lamps wherever distributed. Similarly, that the manufacturers must bear some of the costs of the regulation in the form of lower profits does not cause the statute to violate the Commerce Clause. Such a burden is simply attributable to legitimate interstate regulations. Equally unavailing is the manufacturer's assertion that the statute will force them not to sell lamps in Vermont. Nor does the statute burden interstate commerce by exposing the manufacturers to the possibility of multiple, inconsistent labeling requirements imposed by other states. A state regulation might impose a disproportionate burden on interstate commerce if the regulation is in substantial conflict with a common regulatory scheme in place in other states, but no such conflict has been shown here. The court also holds that the association's First Amendment claim is not likely to succeed on the merits. Vermont's interest in protecting human health and the environment from mercury poisoning is a legitimate and significant public goal. By encouraging such changes in consumer behavior, the labeling requirement is rationally related to the state's goal of reducing mercury contamination.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Steven J. Rosenbaum
Covington & Burling
1201 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington DC 20004
(202) 662-6000

Counsel for Defendants
Ronald A. Shems, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
Pavilion Office Bldg.
109 State St., Montpelier VT 05609
(802) 828-3171

Walker, J. Before Pooler and Sotomayor, JJ.