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National Solid Wastes Management Ass'n v. Alabama Dep't of Envtl. Management

ELR Citation: 20 ELR 20603
Nos. No. 89-G-1722-W, 729 F. Supp. 792/30 ERC 1985/(N.D. Ala., 01/12/1990)

The court holds that an Alabama statute that prohibits importation of hazardous waste shipments from states without capacity assurance plans under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (CERCLA) does not violate the Commerce Clause or the Supremacy Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Applying dormant Commerce Clause case law analysis, the court first holds that the Act is directed toward a legitimate state concern: compliance with the CERCLA capacity assurance directive and safe hazardous waste treatment and disposal. The court next holds that the ban's impact on interstate commerce is incidental and not excessive in relation to the local benefits. The ban prohibited importation of hazardous waste from 22 states and the District of Columbia, and affected only three-tenths of one percent of the waste disposed in Alabama. The Act does not close Alabama's borders to all out-of-state waste; nor is it an effort to hoard a natural resource from the rest of the nation by restricting access to a landfill set on a 700-foot layer of chalk. Instead, the ban is directed only toward waste from states that are not in compliance with federal law. To allow neighboring states to avail themselves of waste sites in Alabama when they have done nothing toward implementation of CERCLA hazardous waste capacity assurance plans would defeat the intent of federal law.

The court also holds that the Alabama statute is not preempted by federal law. The legislative history of environmental law indicates that Congress intended to build a program to protect the environment and the public health and welfare without preempting earlier acts and without preempting the states in the field of environmental protection. Although states are not required to comply with minimum restrictions, no language prevents them from requiring more stringent standards.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Fournier J. Gale III, Jarred O. Taylor II
Maynard, Cooper, Frierson & Gale
2400 AmSouth/Harbert Plaza, Birmingham AL 35203
(205)254-1000

Bruce J. Parker, John H. Turner
National Solid Wastes Management Association
1730 Rhode Island Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 659-4613

Counsel for Defendants
Alton B. Parker Jr., Bert S. Nettles
Spain, Gillon, Grooms, Blan & Nettles
The Zinszer Bldg., 2117 Second Ave. N., Birmingham AL 35203
(205) 328-4100

Ronald W. Farley
Alabama Department of Environmental Management
1751 Congressman W.L. Dickenson Dr., Montgomery AL 36130
(205) 271-7700