Court Decision Affirms Madison County’s Flow Control Law

Madison County Landfill

(Wampsville, NY – Dec. 2012) In a recent court decision, Madison County Supreme Court Judge Donald F. Cerio affirmed the Madison County Solid Waste Hearing Board’s determination that Syracuse Haulers Waste Removal, Inc. (“Syracuse Haulers”), had illegally removed solid waste from the county; also upheld was the board’s imposition of $32,000 in civil surcharges.

The court found that Madison County’s local law requires source separation of recyclables from other solid waste before they are removed from the county.

Cerio determined that Madison County’s flow control law is not preempted by state law.  Moreover, permits issued by the state Department of Environmental Conservation to Syracuse Haulers for the operation of a materials recovery facility and construction and demolition recycling facility in Onondaga County expressly requires compliance with Madison County law.

According to Cerio, the Solid Waste Hearing Board correctly interpreted the flow control law, and the facts and the law supported the Board’s decision. The $32,000 civil surcharge levied by the Solid Waste Hearing Board was the maximum penalty available under the law and was held to be reasonable in light of previous violations by the hauler.

Madison County’s efforts to direct the flow of waste generated within the county to the county’s landfill so that disposal charges, called “tipping fees” can be collected goes back to 1991.  At that time, municipalities around the country passed similar laws to secure local government investments made to construct environmentally safe solid waste facilities; however, in the U.S. Supreme Court’s 1994 Carbone decision, the Court ruled in favor of the haulers, stating that a flow control ordinance that required haulers to deliver waste to a privately owned landfill violated the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

In July 2001, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit in United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority upheld flow control regulations that require that waste be delivered to a publicly owned solid waste facility.  The Court found that flow control laws that direct solid waste to public sector facilities are not unconstitutional when the public benefit outweighs any harm to interstate commerce.

On Jan. 7, 2002, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review a proposed appeal of the Second Circuit decision. As a result, the Oneida-Herkimer decision to permit municipal flow control is the law in the United States.

The Madison County Board of Supervisors voted to reinstate flow control Jan. 8, 2002, and significantly upgraded the law again in 2004.  The Board of Supervisor’s legislation requires that all solid waste generated in Madison County be disposed of at the Madison County landfill.

Solid Waste and Recycling Committee Chairman James Goldstein said the law ensures the Department of Solid Waste and Sanitation a continuous source of revenue and eliminates the possibility that any portion of the county’s waste stream could be diverted, thus causing a shortfall in the Department’s operating budget.

“The Department of Solid Waste and Sanitation’s operating budget covers costs associated with building and operating the landfill, recycling, household hazardous waste disposal, composting and other environmentally beneficial programs,” Goldstein said.

The Syracuse Haulers case is the latest in a series of attempts by private haulers to divert revenues from both solid waste and recyclables to lower cost facilities outside the county at the expense of taxpayers.  Madison County’s Solid Waste and Recycling Committee is planning to revamp the existing local law to strengthen enforcement measures and further ensure that all solid wastes as well as valuable recyclable materials are taken to county-owned facilities.

A series of public information sessions and public hearings will be held prior any final action by the Board of Supervisors to adopt a new flow control law.

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