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Atlantic Coast Demolition & Recycling, Inc. v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of Atl. County

ELR Citation: 27 ELR 21099
Nos. Nos. 96-5567 et al., 112 F.3d 652/(3d Cir., 05/01/1997) Aff'd

The court affirms a district court decision that New Jersey's solid waste flow control laws violate the U.S. Constitution's Commerce Clause, but reverses the lower court's decision to stay an injunction against enforcement of those laws until two years after the exhaustion of appeals and certiorari petitions. The court first affirms the district court's decision not to sever New Jersey's statement of the purpose of self-sufficiency in waste disposal from the rest of the flow control laws and then separately analyze the waste disposal plans of the 22 waste disposal districts. The circuit court's decision in a prior opinion in this litigation that New Jersey's flow control laws discriminated against interstate commerce was not based just on New Jersey's stated goal to create a self-sufficient in-state waste disposal program. It was also based on the management districts' selection of facilities and the codification of this selection by state regulation. The court then affirms the district court's application of heightened scrutiny to the flow control statutes. Next, the court holds that defendants failed to show that the state lacks alternative nondiscriminatory means of achieving its interest. County authorities failed to address the question whether any nondiscriminatory system could now serve New Jersey's legitimate goals of solid waste disposal in an efficient and environmentally safe manner. In addition, the state failed to demonstrate why the district court's factual determination that nondiscriminatory alternatives were at least feasible was clearly erroneous. The district court listed several alternatives by which the state could lift its flow control laws yet ensure the financial integrity of the local government entities. The court therefore affirms the district court's conclusion that New Jersey's present flow control system is unconstitutional under the dormant Commerce Clause. The court also limits the scope of the district court's injunction against enforcement of the New Jersey flow control laws to the pertinent provisions of N.J.A.C. §7:26-6.5.

The court next vacates the district court's stay of the injunction insofar as it will extend past the exhaustion of appeal or petition for certiorari in this case. None of the justifications that defendants raised support the extraordinary act of delaying the injunction of an unconstitutional law. Defendants have all the tools necessary to bring their waste disposal system within the ambit of the Commerce Clause. Their claim that they need a two-year stay in order to deal with the grave environmental threats posed by the district court's injunction is unfounded. And the cost of lifting flow control in New Jersey cannot support the district court's "discretion" to impose a two-year stay.

[Previous decisions in this litigation are published at 25 ELR 20620, 26 ELR 20256 and 20721, and 27 ELR 20111.]

Counsel for Plaintiff
Mark R. Rosen
Mesirov, Gelman, Jaffe, Cramer & Jamieson
89 N. Haddon Ave., P.O. Box 183, Haddonfield NJ 08033
(609) 795-4988

Counsel for Defendants
Betty J. Christian
Steptoe & Johnson
1330 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington DC 20036
(202) 429-3000

Before: STAPLETON, ROTH and GARTH, Circuit Judges