Rollins Environmental Services of Louisiana, Inc. v. Iberville Parish Police Jury, 63502

CourtSupreme Court of Louisiana
Citation371 So.2d 1127
Docket NumberNo. 63502,63502
Decision Date21 May 1979

Page 1127

371 So.2d 1127
13 ERC 1260, 9 Envtl. L. Rep. 20,613
No. 63502.
Supreme Court of Louisiana.
May 21, 1979.

Page 1128

R. Gordon Kean, Jr., John V. Parker, Sanders, Downing, Kean & Cazedessus, Baton Rouge, amicus curiae for Louisiana Chemical Ass'n.

John V. Baus, Harry S. Hardin, III, Samuel O. Buckley, III, Jones, Walker, Waechter, Poitevent, Carrere & Denegre, New Orleans, amicus curiae for Browning-Ferris Industries, Chemical Services, Inc.

Veil David DeVillier, Gen. Counsel, Eunice, Office of Conservation of the State of La., for amicus curiae.

Wallace A. Hunter, William N. Faller, Durrett, Hardin, Hunter, Dameron & Fritchie, Baton Rouge, for plaintiff-respondent.

Patrick W. Pendley, Dana K. Larpenteur, Freeman & Pendley, Ltd., Plaquemine, amicus curiae, for Iberville Parish Police Jury.

Page 1129

Houston C. Gascon, III, Asst. Dist. Atty., for defendant-applicant.

SUMMERS, Chief Justice.

Presented for consideration is the constitutionality of an ordinance of Iberville Parish prohibiting the disposal of hazardous waste within the boundaries of that parish.

In the month of June 1975 the Police Jury of the Parish of Iberville adopted an ordinance providing for a comprehensive collection and disposal service from the road right-of-way line for all residential and small commercial garbage, trash and light tree debris on a twice-a-week basis. Collection and disposal of industrial garbage and trash, large commercial garbage and trash, construction refuse and Hazardous waste were expressly excluded. The purpose of the ordinance is stated to be to protect the public health, safety and welfare, to prevent land, water or air pollution, the spread of disease and creation of nuisances, to conserve natural resources and to enhance the beauty and quality of the environment.

Hazardous waste excluded by the ordinance was defined to include,

". . . such items as petroleum waste; paints; plastics; explosives; acids; caustics; chemicals; poisons; drugs; radioactive materials; asbestos fibers; pathogenic wastes from hospitals; sanatoriums, nursing homes, clinics and veterinary hospitals, offal waste, and the like, which by virtue of their particular composition and inherent dangers, require from those used in other waste materials. In the way of further explanation, 'hazardous waste' is solid waste, (sic) (whether it) be infectious, explosive, poisonous, caustic, or toxic, or otherwise dangerous or injurious to humans, plant or animal life. (Residential solid waste normally contains some hazardous materials, but because such materials are usually present in very small quantities, their safe disposal either in a sanitary landfill or incinerator presents no special problem. Therefore, residential waste is not considered to be "hazardous waste", as used in this text.)

Based upon the authority of the ordinance the parish promptly undertook a program of parish-wide pick-up service in the unincorporated areas of the parish. The project has been active since.

On June 14, 1978 Rollins Environmental Services of Louisiana, Inc. (Rollins), plaintiff herein, acquired a deep well disposal facility known as "Schwing B-1" from Clean Land Air Water Corporation (CLAW). The facility consisted of the well, the twenty acres upon which it is situated and certain other items of equipment used in its operation. "Schwing B-1" is located in Iberville Parish and is designed to dispose of liquid industrial residue by injecting it into the surface of the earth. The well had been drilled and operated under a permit issued to CLAW by the Louisiana Department of Conservation, more particularly, in accordance with the provisions of Statewide Order No. 29-N as promulgated by the Department.

On July 18, 1978, the Department of Conservation approved the transfer of CLAW's permit to Rollins. The sale of the deep well disposal facility was consummated on July 28, 1978.

During the interim between the July 14, 1978 agreement to purchase and the closing of the sale between Rollins and CLAW on July 28, 1978, a young man met his death at an open unlicensed waste disposal site in Iberville Parish operated by CLAW.

Prompted by this incident and the innate concern and apprehension associated with the disposal of hazardous waste, on August 3, 1978 the Police Jury amended the original ordinance to provide that

"No person, firm, corporation, or other commercial establishment shall cause, suffer, allow, or permit any 'Hazardous Waste' . . . or any other land contaminants to be dumped, discharged, stored, injected, or otherwise disposed of, within the boundaries of the Parish of Iberville, Louisiana, or any land within the confines of said parish."

Page 1130

The amendment prescribed a fine of $10,000 per day, for each violation with each day constituting a new violation, in addition to a fine of not less than $25 nor more than $100, or imprisonment for not more than thirty days or both for each day the violation continued.

Prior to the effective date of the amendment, the police jury summoned representatives of industry located in the parish to a meeting to solicit their assistance in alleviating the problems involved in disposing of hazardous waste. The meeting held on August 14, 1978 attended by representatives of industry and some state agencies produced no answers to the problems which were satisfactory to the police jury. Accordingly, those present were advised by the jury that the amendment to the ordinance prohibiting the disposal of hazardous waste within Iberville Parish would become effective the following day and its provisions would be enforced.

Faced with the imminent prospect of heavy fines and imprisonment of its officers and employees if the disposal facility were utilized for injection of hazardous industrial wastes as contemplated, Rollins instituted suit the next day to enjoin the enforcement of the ordinance as amended and to have the enactment declared null and unconstitutional.

The trial court denied the injunction and held the ordinance as amended to be constitutional. After a special en banc hearing in the Court of Appeal, the judgment of the trial court was reversed and the August 3, 1978 amendment to the ordinance was declared unconstitutional. The Court of Appeal was of the opinion that the police jury exceeded its constitutional and statutory authority. Certiorari was granted on application of the parish. 365 So.2d 1374.

On this appeal the police jury contends that Section 1236 of Title 33 of the Revised Statutes confers authority upon that body to regulate hazardous waste. In particular it is the power conferred by subsections 16 and 31 which the police jury invokes. These provide:

"The police juries shall have the following powers:

"(16) To enact ordinances and regulations, not inconsistent with the laws and constitution of the United States, nor of this state, to protect their respective parishes against the introduction of every kind of contagious disease.

"(31) To enact ordinances to require, prohibit, or regulate the destruction, disposal, or burning of trash, garbage, leaves, limbs and branches, or Debris of any kind and to regulate dumping and the use of borrow pits for sanitary fill." (emphasis added).

Relying upon this statutory authority and its contention that the State has failed to preempt or occupy this field of legislation, the parish contends that it is vested with the inherent power to regulate and control the disposal of hazardous waste for the protection of the health and welfare of its citizens.

The statutory power conferred upon police jurors by subsections (16) and (31) do not specifically confer authority to regulate hazardous waste. The general powers to "protect their respective parishes against introduction of every kind of contagious disease" conferred by subsection (16), and the power to "prohibit, or regulate the destruction, disposal, or burning of trash, garbage, leaves, limbs and branches, Or debris of any kind" (emphasis added) conferred by subsection (31), may arguably be extended by construction to include prohibiting any disposal of hazardous waste without a parish. Such a construction, however, is not warranted in the context of those subsections. Nowhere is hazardous waste mentioned. The authorization to protect their parishes against the introduction of "contagious disease" contained in subsection (16) contemplates an area of regulation by police jurors unassociated with the disposal of hazardous industrial waste. Similarly the phrase, "debris of any kind" relied upon by the parish to include hazardous waste,

Page 1131

when considered with "burning of trash, garbage, leaves, limbs and branches", referred to in subsection (31), does not permit the result contended for by the parish. The meaning of words or phrases may be ascertained by the words or phrases with which they are associated. Thus words of general meaning should be applied only to such classes of things of the same general kind as those specifically...

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