Supreme Court ruling upholds counties on flow control
The U.S. Supreme Court has issued a ruling upholding local governments’ right to require waste haulers to deliver trash to publicly operated processing sites, otherwise known as “flow control.” The 6-3 decision, issued on April 30, reverses a 1994 ruling that essentially eliminated flow control.
When Oneida and Herkimer counties in New York formed a joint solid waste authority in 1991, they passed ordinances requiring waste to be taken to environmentally friendly, publicly owned facilities, and they charged a tipping fee. United Haulers, Inc., sued the counties, saying the law violated the Constitution’s Commerce Clause by hindering them from crossing state lines to find cheaper dumping facilities.
The justices decided that, because the ordinance dealt with a publicly owned facility, the case was different from 1994’s C&A Carbone v. Clarkstown, in which the court ruled against flow control, and which involved a privately owned dumping facility. “We find this difference [between a publicly owned facility and a private one] constitutionally significant,” the ruling states. “Disposing of trash has been a traditional government activity for years, and laws that favor the government in such areas — but treat every private business, whether in-state or out-of-state, exactly the same — do not discriminate against interstate commerce for purposes of the Commerce Clause.”