United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., No. 05–1345.

CourtUnited States Supreme Court
Writing for the CourtJustice SCALIA
Citation127 S.Ct. 1786,167 L.Ed.2d 655,75 BNA USLW 4277,550 U.S. 330
Decision Date30 April 2007
Docket NumberNo. 05–1345.
PartiesUNITED HAULERS ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Petitioners, v. ONEIDA–HERKIMER SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY et al.

550 U.S. 330
127 S.Ct.
1786
167 L.Ed.2d 655
75 BNA USLW 4277

UNITED HAULERS ASSOCIATION, INC., et al., Petitioners,
v.
ONEIDA–HERKIMER SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY et al.

No. 05–1345.

Supreme Court of the United States

Argued Jan. 8, 2007.
Decided April 30, 2007.




[127 S.Ct. 1787]Syllabus*

Traditionally, municipalities in respondent Counties disposed of their own solid [127 S.Ct. 1788]wastes, often via landfills that operated without permits and in violation of state regulations. Facing an environmental crisis and an uneasy relationship with local waste management companies, the Counties requested and the State created respondent Authority. The Counties and the Authority agreed that the Authority would manage all solid waste in the Counties. Private haulers could pick up citizens' trash, but the Authority would process, sort, and send it off for disposal. The Authority would also provide other services, including recycling. If the Authority's operating costs and debt service were not recouped through the “tipping fees” it charged, the Counties must make up the difference. To avoid such liability, the Counties enacted “flow control” ordinances requiring private haulers to obtain permits to collect solid waste in the Counties and to deliver the waste to the Authority's sites.

Petitioners, a trade association and individual haulers, filed suit under 42 U.S.C. § 1983, alleging that the flow control ordinances violate the Commerce Clause by discriminating against interstate commerce. They submitted evidence that without the ordinances and the associated tipping fees, they could dispose of solid waste at out-of-state facilities for far less. Ruling in the haulers' favor, the District Court held that nearly all flow control laws had been categorically rejected in C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383, 114 S.Ct. 1677, 128 L.Ed.2d 399, where this Court held that an ordinance forcing haulers to deliver waste to a particular private facility discriminated against interstate commerce. Reversing, the Second Circuit held that Carbone and other of this Court's so-called “dormant” Commerce Clause precedents allow for a distinction between laws that benefit public, as opposed to private, facilities.

Held: The judgments are affirmed.

261 F.3d 245 and 438 F.3d 150, affirmed.

THE CHIEF JUSTICE delivered the opinion of the Court with respect to Parts I, II–A, II–B, and II–C, concluding that the Counties' flow control ordinances, which treat in-state private business interests exactly

[550 U.S. 331]

the same as out-of-state ones, do not discriminate against interstate commerce. Pp. 1792 – 1797.

(a) To determine whether a law violates the dormant Commerce Clause, the Court first asks whether it discriminates on its face against interstate commerce. In this context, “ ‘discrimination’ simply means differential treatment of in-state and out-of-state economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter.” Oregon Waste Systems, Inc. v. Department of Environmental Quality of Ore., 511 U.S. 93, 99, 114 S.Ct. 1345, 128 L.Ed.2d 13. Discriminatory laws motivated by “simple economic protectionism” are subject to a “virtually per se rule of invalidity,” Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617, 624, 98 S.Ct. 2531, 57 L.Ed.2d 475, which can only be overcome by a showing that there is no other means to advance a legitimate local purpose, Maine v. Taylor, 477 U.S. 131, 138, 106 S.Ct. 2440, 91 L.Ed.2d 110. Pp. 1792 – 1793.

(b) Carbone does not control this case. Carbone involved a flow control ordinance requiring that all nonhazardous solid waste within a town be deposited, upon payment of an above-market tipping fee, at a transfer facility run by a private contractor under an agreement with the town. See 511 U.S., at 387, 114 S.Ct. 1677. The dissent there opined that the ostensibly private transfer station was “essentially[127 S.Ct. 1789]a municipal facility,” id., at 419, 114 S.Ct. 1677, and that this distinction should have saved the ordinance because favoring local government is different from favoring a particular private company. The majority's failure to comment on the public-private distinction does not prove, as the haulers' contend, that the majority agreed with the dissent's characterization of the facility, but thought there was no difference under the dormant Commerce Clause between laws favoring private entities and those favoring public ones. Rather, the Carbone majority avoided the issue because the transfer station was private, and therefore the question whether public facilities may be favored was not properly before the Court. The majority viewed the ordinance as “just one more instance of local processing requirements that we long have held invalid,” id., at 391, 114 S.Ct. 1677, citing six local processing cases involving discrimination in favor of private enterprise. If the Court were extending this line of cases to cover discrimination in favor of local government, it could be expected to have said so. Thus, Carbone cannot be regarded as having decided the public-private question. Pp. 1792 – 1795.

(c) The flow control ordinances in this case do not discriminate against interstate commerce. Compelling reasons justify treating these laws differently from laws favoring particular private businesses over their competitors. “[A]ny notion of discrimination assumes a comparison of substantially similar entities,” General Motors Corp. v. Tracy, 519 U.S. 278, 298, 117 S.Ct. 811, 136 L.Ed.2d 761, whereas government's important responsibilities to protect the health, safety, and welfare of its citizens set it apart from a typical private

[550 U.S. 332]

business, cf. id., at 313, 117 S.Ct. 811. Moreover, in contrast to laws favoring in-state business over out-of-state competition, which are often the product of economic protectionism, laws favoring local government may be directed toward any number of legitimate goals unrelated to protectionism. Here, the ordinances enable the Counties to pursue particular policies with respect to waste handling and treatment, while allocating the costs of those policies on citizens and businesses according to the volume of waste they generate. The contrary approach of treating public and private entities the same under the dormant Commerce Clause would lead to unprecedented and unbounded interference by the courts with state and local government. The Counties' citizens could have left the entire matter of waste management services for the private sector, in which case any regulation they undertook could not discriminate against interstate commerce. But it was also open to them to vest responsibility for the matter with their government, and to adopt flow control ordinances to support the government effort. It is not the office of the Commerce Clause to control the voters' decision in this regard. The Court is particularly hesitant to interfere here because waste disposal is typically and traditionally a function of local government exercising its police power. Nothing in the Commerce Clause vests the responsibility for such a policy judgment with the Federal Judiciary. Finally, while the Court's dormant Commerce Clause cases often find discrimination when the burden of state regulation falls on interests outside the State, the most palpable harm imposed by the ordinances at issue—more expensive trash removal—will likely fall upon the very people who voted for the laws, the Counties' citizens. There is no reason to step in and hand local businesses a victory they could not obtain through the political process. Pp. 1795 – 1797.

ROBERTS, C.J., delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II–D. [127 S.Ct. 1790]SOUTER, GINSBURG, and BREYER, JJ., joined that opinion in full. SCALIA, J., filed an opinion concurring as to Parts I and II–A through II–C, post, p. 1798. THOMAS, J., filed an opinion concurring in the judgment, post, p. 1799. ALITO, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which STEVENS and KENNEDY, JJ., joined, post, p. 1803.


Evan Tager, Washington, DC, for petitioners.

Michael J. Cahill, Holbrook, New York, for respondents.


Caitlin J. Halligan for New York as amicus curiae, by special leave of the Court, supporting the respondents.

Evan M. Tager, Counsel of Record, Miriam R. Nemetz, Mayer, Brown, Rowe & Maw LLP, Washington, DC, for Petitioners.

Michael J. Cahill, Counsel of Record, Germano & Cahill, PC, Holbrook, New York, Judy Drabicki, Dexter, NY, Peter M. Rayhill, Kernan & Kernan P.C., Utica, NY, Bruce S. Rogow, Bruce S. Rogow, P.A., Fort Lauderdale, Florida, for Oneida–Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, Richard A. Frye, Frye Foley & Carbone, Utica, NY, for Oneida County NY, Thomas E. Kelly Horrigan, Horrigan, Lombardo & Kelly PC, Amsterdam, NY, for Herkimer County, NY.

Chief Justice ROBERTS delivered the opinion of the Court, except as to Part II–D.

[550 U.S. 334]

“Flow control” ordinances require trash haulers to deliver solid waste to a particular waste processing facility. In C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383, 114 S.Ct. 1677, 128 L.Ed.2d 399 (1994), this Court struck down under the Commerce Clause a flow control ordinance that forced haulers to deliver waste to a particular private processing facility. In this case, we face flow control ordinances quite similar to the one invalidated in Carbone. The only salient difference is that the laws at issue here require haulers to bring waste to facilities owned and operated by a state-created public benefit corporation. We find this difference constitutionally significant. 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. Applying the Commerce Clause test reserved for regulations that do not discriminate against interstate commerce, we uphold these ordinances...

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293 practice notes
  • Coors Brewing Co. v. Mendez–torres, Civil No. 06–2150(DRD).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • March 30, 2011
    ...efforts under the guise of the Commerce Clause.” Id. (quoting United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida–Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., 550 U.S. 330, 344, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007)). “Heightened scrutiny applies when a law ‘discriminates against interstate commerce’ in purpose or ......
  • Castanza v. The Town Of Brookhaven, No. 06-CV-6654 (SJF)(AKT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 22, 2010
    ...laws protecting the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens. United Haulers Ass'n. Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management, 550 U.S. 330, 342, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007). In New York, Section 10 of the Municipal Home Rule extends this police power to counties, citie......
  • Illinois Restaurant Ass'n v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 7014.
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    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • June 12, 2007
    ...relation to the putative local benefits"); United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 1792-93, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007) (per Chief Justice Roberts, with three Justices concurring and one Justice concurring in judgment) (the Pi......
  • Wal-Mart Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Zaragoza-Gomez, Civil No. 3:15-CV-03018 (JAF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • March 28, 2016
    ...economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter.” United Haulers Ass'n v. Oneida – Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth. , 550 U.S. 330, 338, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007) (quoting Oregon Waste Sys., Inc. v. Dep't of Envtl. Quality , 511 U.S. 93, 99, 114 S.Ct. 1345, 1......
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286 cases
  • Coors Brewing Co. v. Mendez–torres, Civil No. 06–2150(DRD).
    • United States
    • U.S. District Court — District of Puerto Rico
    • March 30, 2011
    ...efforts under the guise of the Commerce Clause.” Id. (quoting United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida–Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., 550 U.S. 330, 344, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007)). “Heightened scrutiny applies when a law ‘discriminates against interstate commerce’ in purpose or ......
  • Castanza v. The Town Of Brookhaven, No. 06-CV-6654 (SJF)(AKT).
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 2nd Circuit. United States District Court (Eastern District of New York)
    • March 22, 2010
    ...laws protecting the health, safety, and welfare of their citizens. United Haulers Ass'n. Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management, 550 U.S. 330, 342, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007). In New York, Section 10 of the Municipal Home Rule extends this police power to counties, citie......
  • Illinois Restaurant Ass'n v. City of Chicago, No. 06 C 7014.
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 7th Circuit. United States District Court (Northern District of Illinois)
    • June 12, 2007
    ...relation to the putative local benefits"); United Haulers Ass'n, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority, ___ U.S. ___, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 1792-93, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007) (per Chief Justice Roberts, with three Justices concurring and one Justice concurring in judgment) (the Pi......
  • Wal-Mart Puerto Rico, Inc. v. Zaragoza-Gomez, Civil No. 3:15-CV-03018 (JAF)
    • United States
    • United States District Courts. 1st Circuit. District of Puerto Rico
    • March 28, 2016
    ...economic interests that benefits the former and burdens the latter.” United Haulers Ass'n v. Oneida – Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth. , 550 U.S. 330, 338, 127 S.Ct. 1786, 167 L.Ed.2d 655 (2007) (quoting Oregon Waste Sys., Inc. v. Dep't of Envtl. Quality , 511 U.S. 93, 99, 114 S.Ct. 1345, 1......
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7 books & journal articles
  • Legal Tools for Achieving Low Traffic Zones
    • United States
    • Environmental Law Reporter Nbr. 50-4, April 2020
    • April 1, 2020
    ...Church, Inc., 397 U.S. 137, 142 (1970). See also United Haulers Association, Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Management Authority , 550 U.S. 330, 346, 37 ELR 20097 (2007), which applied the Pike test. 62. Reeves, Inc. v. Stake, 447 U.S. 429, 447 (1980). 63. See , e.g. , White v. Mass. C......
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    ...Illinois Dep’t of Revenue, __U.S.__, 128 S. Ct. 1498 (2008); United Haulers Ass’n v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., __U.S.__, 127 S. Ct. 1786 (2007); American Trucking Ass’n v. Michigan Pub. Serv. Comm’n, 545 U.S. 429 (2005); and Granholm v. Heald, 544 U.S. 460 (2005). 8. Great At......
  • Minimizing Constitutional Risk in State Energy Policy: A Survey of the State of the Law
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    ...can be found in Title IV of the CAA, 42 U.S.C. §§7651 et seq. 12. United Haulers Assn., Inc. v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., 550 U.S. 330, 343, 37 ELR 20097 (2007) (upholding county ordinance that required solid waste to be processed at a publically owned facility). 13. Maine v.......
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    ...to the legitimacy and extent of the reach of the dormant Commerce Clause. United Haulers Ass’n v. Oneida-Herkimer Solid Waste Mgmt. Auth., 550 U.S. 330 (2007), was a case involving the legitimacy of two New York counties’ “flow control ordinances” that required all solid waste generated loc......
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