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Philadelphia, City of v. New Jersey

Citation: 8 ELR 20540
No. No. 77-404, 437 U.S. 617/11 ERC 1770/(U.S., 06/23/1978) Rev'd

The Supreme Court holds that a New Jersey law which prohibits the importation of solid or liquid waste originating outside the state is a violation of the Commerce Clause. After an initial determination that the state law has not been preempted by the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976, Justice Stewart, writing for a 7-2 majority, emphasizes that transportation of the wastes in question is covered by the Commerce Clause. Noting that New Jersey's landfill sites remain open to waste generated inside the state and that no basis has been shown for distinguishing between in-state and out-of-state wastes on the basis of health risks or environmental effects, the Court concludes that the law, both on its face and in its plain effect, discriminates against articles of commerce coming from other states solely because of their place of origin. Such a protectionist approach is impermissible under the Commerce Clause, even when aimed at preserving the state's environment. New Jersey is free to close its landfills to both out-of-state and in-state wastes, but it cannot place the entire burden of slowing the flow of waste into its remaining landfill sites solely upon other states. The New Jersey Supreme Court's decision upholding the law is reversed.

In dissent, Justice Rehnquist argues that New Jersey may, pursuant to prior cases upholding "quarantine" laws under the Commerce Clause, exclude out-of-state wastes because of their health and safety hazards even if it continues to permit landfill disposal of waste generated within the state.

Counsel for Appellants
Herbert F. Moore, Arthur Meisel
Jamieson, McCardell, Moore, Peskin & Spicer
19 Chancery Lane, Trenton NJ 08618
(609) 396-5511

John R. Padova
Solo & Padova
Lewis Tower Bldg., 15th & Locust St., Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 545-0111

Counsel for Appellees
Stephen Skillman, Ass't Attorney General; John J. Degnan, Attorney General; Deborah Poritz, Nathan Edelstein, Deputy Attorneys General
Dept. of Law, State House Annex, Trenton NJ 08625
(609) 292-4925