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Los Angeles, City of v. Kern, County of

ELR Citation: 43 ELR 20042
Nos. F063381, (Cal. Ct. App. 5th Dist., 02/13/2013)

A California appellate court upheld a lower court decision preliminarily enjoining a county from enforcing a voter-approved ballot measure banning the use of agricultural fertilizer made from recycled municipal sewage sludge in unincorporated areas of the county. The application of this fertilizer, known in the industry as "biosolids," is a major, widespread, comprehensively regulated form of recycling upon which many municipalities' waste management systems depend. If enforced, the measure would have the effect of preventing plaintiff Los Angeles and others from continuing to apply biosolids in unincorporated areas as a means of disposing of sewage sludge on farms they either own or that contract with the county. The plaintiff is likely to succeed on two of their contentions: (1) that the measure is preempted by the California Integrated Waste Management Act; and (2) that the measure conflicts with a state constitutional principle known as the regional welfare doctrine and therefore exceeds the county's authority. In light of the undisputed lack of a showing of hardship to the county, the plaintiffs' showing of a likelihood of success on the merits was more than sufficient to uphold the preliminary injunction.