Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

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

ELR Citation: 24 ELR 20865
Nos. No. 2:90-1360-8, 841 F. Supp. 1402/(D.S.C., 01/19/1994) statute unconstitutional

The court holds that several provisions of the South Carolina Infectious Waste Management Act addressing the costs and hauling of particular wastes violate the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. The court first holds that the owner of a medical, municipal solid, and commercial nonhazardous waste incinerator facility has standing to challenge the Act's provisions addressing generator fees and blacklisting, but not demonstration of need. The owner alleged sufficient threat of injury as to the blacklisting provision, which bars an in-state facility from accepting any infectious waste generated in a jurisdiction that prohibits the treatment, storage, or disposal of that waste within that jurisdiction, because the provision authorizes civil penalties of up to $10,000 per violation. The owner alleged sufficient injury as to the generator fees provision, which imposes no fee on in-statesmall quantity generators but did impose fees on all other generators, because the owner's business will suffer sufficient adverse effects from the provision's enforcement. The court holds that the owner's alleged inability to obtain a permit is insufficient injury for purposes of challenging a provision that addresses demonstration of need for expanding a facility. The injury is too speculative for purposes of standing.

Addressing the constitutionality of these and other provisions, the court first holds that the blacklisting provision violates the Commerce Clause. The provision facially discriminates against interstate commerce, and it is a protectionist measure not based on a legitimate local concern. The court holds that the fluctuating treatment cap provisions, which require that an annual cap be set based on the amount of waste that will be generated in South Carolina during the ensuing 12 months, do not facially discriminate against out-of-state waste in violation of the Commerce Clause. They do not place any restrictions on the disposal of the waste based on its origin, but apply evenhandedly to both in-state and out-of-state waste. The cap provisions also do not violate the Equal Protection Clause, because the concerns addressed by the cap are legitimate and the statute is rationally related to those concerns. The court holds that a backhauling regulation requiring that vehicles used to transport, store, or otherwise manage medical waste be used exclusively for that purpose violates the Commerce Clause. The regulation is subject to strict scrutiny because it has the practical effect of significantly reducing the entry into the state of out-of-state waste, since the facility receives nearly all of its infectious waste from out-of-state, and there are less discriminatory means to address the state's health and safety concerns. The court holds that a regulation that imposes refrigeration requirements on the transport of infectious waste violates the Commerce Clause. The regulation significantly reduces the entry into the state of out-of-state waste by raising the costs of disposing of such waste in South Carolina, and the state's legitimate concern of odor control can be achieved through less discriminatory alternatives. The court holds that a statutory provision that imposes a fee on the commercial treatment of medical waste in South Carolina of $30 per ton for waste generated out-of-state and $ 25 per ton for waste generated within the state violates the Commerce Clause. The provision clearly discriminates on its face against out-of-state waste, and the concerns the statute is meant to address can be served through less discriminatory alternatives. The court declares the entire provision unconstitutional rather than striking only the discriminatory excess portion of the fee. The court holds that a regulation that imposes a permit fee on facilities that handle and treat infectious wastes, yet exempts facilities that are defined as "permit by rule" facilities, violates the Commerce Clause. The real distinction drawn by the regulation is between in-state and out-of-state waste, and because the state's legitimate purpose of providing funding for an infectious waste program could be achieved by levying permit fees on all facilities that disposed of waste in South Carolina, whether at off-site or on-site facilities, the regulation violates the Commerce Clause. Finally, the court holds that a regulation that imposes a fee on the interstate transport of infectious waste violates the Commerce Clause. The inevitable effect of the regulation was to threaten free movement of commerce by placing a financial barrier around the state, and the state's need to fund an infectious waste program could be served by a per-ton fee on all hazardous or infectious waste disposed of within South Carolina.

Counsel for Plaintiff
Bradford W. Wyche
Wyche, Burgess, Freeman & Parham
44 E. Camperdown Way, P.O. Box 728, Greenville SC 29602
(803) 242-3131

Counsel for Defendants
J. Patrick Hudson, Ass't Attorney General
Attorney General's Office
R.C.D. Office Bldg., 1000 Assembly St., Columbia SC 29211
(803) 734-3970