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Lefrancois v. Rhode Island

ELR Citation: 18 ELR 20812
Nos. No. 87-361 P, 669 F. Supp. 1204/(D.R.I., 09/15/1987)

The court holds that a statute prohibiting the deposit of out-of-state solid waste in a state-funded and -operated landfill does not violate the Commerce Clause, the Contract Clause, or the Privileges and Immunities Clause of the Constitution. The court first holds that the statutory ban does not violate the Commerce Clause because it achieves the legitimate local interest offering in-state residents a landfill waste processing service without creating an excessive burden by permitting private in-state and out-of-state parties the opportunity to purchase private landfills. The court distinguishes this case from City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 8 ELR 20540, where a similar ban applied to all in-state landfills, both public and private. In addition, Rhode Island is permitted to favor its own citizens over others because the benefits are created for and limited to those who fund the landfill program. The court holds that the ban does not violate the Contract Clause. Although the prohibition against out-of-state waste disposal does substantially impair a contract between plaintiff and the state agency, the state reasonably and necessarily adjusted plaintiff's contractual rights and responsibilities based on its observation that the public purpose justified the legislation. The state had legitimate goals of providing maximum protection for those residing near the landfill, preserving the landfill's capacity for those who financially support the site, and securing safe waste disposal for the general health and welfare of its citizens. Even if the legislation were neither necessary nor reasonable to achieve the public purpose, it would nevertheless be valid under the Contract Clause because the reserved powers doctrine prevents a legislature from limiting or surrendering any future sovereign police powers. Finally, the court holds that the out-of-state waste disposal ban does not violate the Privileges and Immunities Clause of Article IV, §2, since both in-state and out-of-state waste haulers may dispose of instate waste at the landfill.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Howard Croll, Stephen Izzi
Fontaine & Croll
34 Hamlet Ave., Woonsocket RI 02895
(401) 765-0200

Counsel for Defendants
Gary Powers, David Prior
Office of the Attorney General
72 Pine St., Providence RI 02903
(401) 274-4400