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Chambers Medical Technologies of S.C., Inc. v. Bryant

Citation: 25 ELR 20972
No. Nos. 94-1400, -1414, 52 F.3d 1252/41 ERC 1195/(4th Cir., 04/21/1995) Aff'd

The court remands the question whether a South Carolina statutory cap on in-state commercial incineration of infectious waste violates the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause for further proceedings on whether the state legislature enacted it for a discriminatory purpose and whether the statute discriminates on its face or in practical effect. The court holds that the question whether to apply strict scrutiny or the balancing test of Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137 (1970), in determining whether the statute violates the Commerce Clause is dispositive, because under the heightened Commerce Clause analysis the cap is unconstitutional, while under the Pikebalancing test it is not. The court remands the question of the statute's constitutionality under the Commerce Clause for further proceedings because the court cannot determine from the record whether the district court resolved the question of discriminatory purpose against the state or whether it simply failed to address the question and because the district court and the parties have not had an opportunity to address whether the statute discriminates on its face or in practical effect based on the fact that the cap applies only to treatment facilities that incinerate out-of-state waste.

The court holds that the cap does not violate the Constitution's Equal Protection Clause because it is rationally related to legitimate state concerns — traffic control, leaking containers, and noncombusted material in a landfill. It is conceivable that the legislature recognized that the method of calculating the cap would result in a reduction of the amount of infectious waste burned at plaintiffs waste treatment facility and believed that if the facility were only allowed to incinerate less waste than it had been incinerating, less waste would be transported to the facility, thereby reducing traffic problems, the number of leaking containers, and the amount of noncombusted material sent to landfills. The court holds that a South Carolina regulation requiring refrigeration of infectious waste during travel to a disposal site that lasts more than 24 hours violates the Commerce Clause, because it discriminates against interstate commerce in its effect. Therefore, the more stringent Commerce Clause analysis applies. The state does not claim that the regulation can be held constitutional under this analysis, and the court holds that the district court's finding that alternative nondiscriminatory methods exist that would adequately serve the interest of the state is not clearly erroneous. Finally, the court holds that plaintiff has standing to challenge regulations that impose a fee on generators who dispose of infectious waste off-site and prohibit in-state waste treatment facility operators from accepting infectious waste generated in jurisdictions that prohibit infectious waste treatment within their borders. The state elected not to advance any argument why the district court erred in concluding that plaintiff had standing to raise the constitutionality of the fee provision, and plaintiff demonstrated that it will incur costs in monitoring the laws of other states to avoid violating the blacklisting provision.

[The district court's opinion is published at 24 ELR 20865.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Bradford W. Wyche
Wyche, Burgess, Freeman & Parham
44 E. Camperdown Way, P.O. Box 728, Greenville, SC 29602
(803) 242-8200

Counsel for Defendants
Stephen A. Spitz
Smith, Bundy, Bybee & Barnett
49 Broad St., P.O. Box 579, Charleston SC 29402
(803) 577-6302