Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Nat. Resources

PETITIONER: Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc.
RESPONDENT: Michigan Department Of Natural Resources et al.
LOCATION: Mississippi Governor's Office

DOCKET NO.: 91-636
DECIDED BY: Rehnquist Court (1991-1993)
LOWER COURT: United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit

CITATION: 504 US 353 (1992)
ARGUED: Mar 30, 1992
DECIDED: Jun 01, 1992

ADVOCATES:
Harold B. Finn, III - on behalf of the Petitioner
Thomas L. Casey - on behalf of the Respondents

Facts of the case

Question

Media for Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Nat. Resources

Audio Transcription for Oral Argument - March 30, 1992 in Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Nat. Resources

Audio Transcription for Opinion Announcement - June 01, 1992 in Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill, Inc. v. Michigan Department of Nat. Resources

William H. Rehnquist:

The opinion of the Court in No. 91-636, Fort Gratiot Sanitary Landfill versus Michigan Department of Natural Resources will be announced by Justice Stevens.

John Paul Stevens:

This case comes to us on a writ of certiorari to the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit.

The waste import restrictions of Michigan Solid Waste Management Act provide that solid waste generated in another county, state, or country cannot be accepted for disposal in any Michigan County unless such disposal is specifically authorized in that county's solid waste management plan.

Petitioner, the operator of a privately owned landfill in St. Clair County, Michigan asked the County for permission to accept out of state waste but the County declined the request.

Petitioner then filed this action seeking a judgment declaring the waste import restrictions invalid under the Commerce Clause and enjoining their enforcement.

The District Court dismissed the complaint and the Court of Appeals affirmed finding no facial discrimination against interstate commerce because the restrictions do not treat out of county waste from Michigan any differently from waste from other states.

The Court of Appeals also concluded that the statute does not discriminate in actual effect because petitioner has not alleged that all Michigan Counties ban out of state waste.

For the reasons stated in an opinion filed with the Clerk today, we reverse the judgment of the Court of Appeals.

The waste import restrictions clearly discriminate against interstate commerce since they authorize each county to isolate itself from the national economy and afford local waste producer's complete protection from out of state producers seeking to use local waste disposal areas unless a county acts affirmatively to authorize such use.

The fact that the waste import restrictions treat waste from other Michigan counties no differently from waste from other states does not qualify their discriminatory character.

For our cases teach that a state may not avoid the strictures of the Commerce Clause by curtailing the movement of articles of commerce through subdivisions of the state rather than through the state itself.

Nor are we persuaded that the Michigan statute constitutes a comprehensive health and safety regulation rather than economic protectionism of the state's limited landfill capacity.

Respondents have provided no valid health and safety reasons for limiting the amount of waste that a landfill operator may accept from outside the state but not the amount the operator may accept from inside the state.

The Chief Justice has filed a dissenting opinion in which Justice Blackmun has joined.