Jump to Navigation
Jump to Content

Los Angeles, City of v. Kern, County of

ELR Citation: 37 ELR 20214
Nos. No. 06-5094, (C.D. Cal., 08/10/2007) final decision

A district court held that a county ordinance that bans the land application of "Los Angeles sludge" in the unincorporated areas of the county violates the Commerce Clause. The city of Los Angeles generates a large amount of sewage treatment residues, some substantial portion of which it would ship to farmland located in unincorporated areas of the county for use as fertilizer. The ban does not violate the Equal Protection Clause because it rationally furthers legitimate local interests in guarding against potential environmental harm and nuisance associated with biosolids. Although the county's attacks on Los Angeles sludge certainly demonstrated animosity toward the city, this animosity was directly related to the perceived harm the ban legitimately sought to redress. However, the ban violates the Commerce Clause. Its objective of removing the city's biosolid recycling operations from the county as a whole forces the city to locate and develop alternate recycling sites, most probably in Arizona. At the same time, it allows in-county sludge producers to continue disposing of their biosolids locally, thus accomplishing its legitimate environmental purpose through impermissible means. This discriminatory effect subjects the ban to strict scrutiny review, which it cannot withstand. The county could easily have guarded against the perceived environmental harm with a more tailored regulation regarding the location, quality, and volume of biosolids that could be applied to land. The ban also violates the California Integrated Waste Management Act. The Act expresses a statewide policy of promoting recycling over other disposal methods for "solid waste," and the statute defines this to include biosolids. Hence, the ban frustrates this statutory purpose and is invalid due to conflict preemption.

[A prior decision in this litigation can be found at 36 ELR 20221.]