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Houlton Citizens' Coalition v. Houlton, Town of

ELR Citation: 29 ELR 21086
Nos. 98-1999, 175 F.3d 178/48 ERC 1443/(1st Cir., 04/22/1999)

The court holds that a Maine town's solid waste flow-control ordinance, coupled with its grant of an exclusive hauling and disposal contract to a local contractor, does not violate the dormant U.S. Commerce Clause. The court first holds that the town's ordinance does not discriminate on its face against interstate commerce. The open and freely accessible bidding process for the hauling contract ensured a level playing field for all interested parties and provided sufficiently broad market access to quell Commerce Clause concerns. The town did not restrict the bid protocol to a particular class of bidders, shape it to favor in-state operators, or slant it in any way against out-of-state purveyors. The court next holds that the waste management scheme's strong local interest in efficient and effective waste management outweighs the virtually invisible burden that the town's scheme places on interstate commerce.

The court then holds that the town's grant of an exclusive hauling and disposal contract to a local contractor does not constitute a regulatory taking of another waste hauler's business because the grant of an exclusive contract for refuse collection does not constitute a taking vis-à-vis other competing haulers. In addition, the court holds that the town's waste control ordinance does not impermissibly impugn private contracts held by other waste haulers. The ordinance effects a legitimate public purpose that furthers public health and safety by ensuring reliable collection service, and it is reasonable in light of the circumstances. The court also holds that the question of whether the ordinance violates the town's charter depends entirely on state law and should be litigated in state court.

Counsel for Plaintiffs
Robert M. Morris
Carton, Davis & Morris
Six Cumberland St., Brunswick ME 04011
(207) 725-0000

Counsel for Defendant
Michael E. Saucier
Thompson & Bowie
Three Canal Plaza, Portland ME 04112
(207) 774-2500

Before Stahl and Lipez, JJ.