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Hancock Indus. v. Schaeffer

Citation: 17 ELR 20728
No. No. 86-1266, 811 F.2d 225/25 ERC 1553/(3d Cir., 02/06/1987)

The court holds that the closure of county landfills to out-of-county waste other than that which the landfill authorities were required to accept by contract does not violate the Equal Protection Clause or antitrust laws. The court first holds that the district court's failure to give plaintiffs 10 days notice of its intent to treat defendants' motion to dismiss as a motion for summary judgment was harmless error, since there is no state of facts on which plaintiffs could conceivably recover as a result of this court's rulings. The court also holds the district court did not err in denying discovery pursuant to Federal Rule of Civil Procedure (FRCP) 56(f) on plaintiffs' antitrust claim. The court holds that the district court properly used information presented at an evidentiary hearing in making its decision.

The court holds that the county landfill authorities are immune under the state action exemption to the federal antitrust laws. It is not necessary that the Pennsylvania Solid Waste Management Act (SWMA) expressly authorize the challenged conduct; the closure of a county-owned landfill to out-of-county waste is a logical consequence of the state-created power and obligation of a municipality to provide for the disposal of its own waste under the Act. Although the SWMA does not compel defendants to exclude out-of-county waste, the possibility of such an exclusion logically followed once the decision was made to dispose of municipal waste through the acquisition of a landfill. The court holds that the exclusion is not preempted by the SWMA's requirement of area-wide waste disposal planning. The legislature may have had county-wide planning in mind, since it chose not to define "area." The court holds that the motivation of the county authorities is not relevant in determining whether the county is entitled to the state action exemption.

The court holds that the distinction drawn by the landfill authority between in-county and out-of-county trash is rationally related to the county's obligation under the SWMA to provide for county solid waste disposal and thus does not violate the Equal Protection Clause. The evidence indicated the authority's concern for environmental problems caused by increased tonnage deposited at the landfill as well as for the possibility that the landfill's capacity would be reached long before originally anticipated. The proper disposal of county trash is a legitimate interest of the state and the landfill authority, and it is not the court's function to inquire as to whether this was the county's true purpose. Even with all inferences drawn in plaintiffs' favor, the evidence is insufficient to conclude that preserving landfill capacity for county waste could not have been a goal of the exclusionary policy. Moreover, the exclusionary policy is rationally related on its face to preserving the landfill's limited capacity for county waste. Finally, the court declines to consider plaintiffs' motion that that case be remanded for consideration of newly discovered evidence pursuant to FRCP 60(b), since the motion is not properly before the court.

Counsel for Appellants
Nolan N. Atkinson Jr., Mark Lipowicz
Atkinson & Archie
2101 Pine St., Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 546-1630

Counsel for Appellees
Joseph A. Tate, Stephen D. Brown
Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis
1600 Market St., Philadelphia PA 19103
(215) 751-2000