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From: News and Views | City Beat |
Tuesday, March 05, 2002

High Court Trashes
Va.'s Curb on Waste 

Daily News Staff Writer

Virginia cannot refuse New York City's refuse, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled yesterday.

Without comment, the justices refused to consider reviving Virginia's recently struck down restrictions on imported garbage, the majority of which comes from New York.

The decision gives the city a break as it rejiggers a 10-year strategy to remove 24 million pounds of household trash each day.

Last month, a Daily News story outlined the city's mounting trash problems and revealed that much-needed construction of six trash-processing plants has been delayed, derailed or appears unlikely to succeed.

The city closed its only dump, the Fresh Kills landfill on Staten Island, in 1999 and began sending its waste as far as Virginia and Ohio. The closed landfill is being used to inspect debris from the collapsed World Trade Center buildings.

After Virginia leaders cited public health concerns and bristled at the prospect of becoming one of "the nation's dumping grounds," the state passed laws restricting large shipments of imported trash.

Several garbage-hauling companies including Waste Management Holdings, which has handled the city's trash sued to challenge the stiffer Virginia laws. The city was not involved in the lawsuit.

Congress' Decision

In the end, the high court ruled that the Constitution gives Congress, not the states, the authority to regulate the flow of garbage because it is considered interstate commerce.

"The Supreme Court decision assists the city in safely and inexpensively disposing of our trash," said Jordan Barowitz, a spokesman for Mayor Bloomberg. "Exporting our garbage is a major component of the solid-waste management plan."

A spokesman for Waste Management Holdings was unavailable for comment.

Eric Goldstein, a lawyer for the Natural Resources Defense Council in New York, praised the court's decision but criticized city policy.

"Just because it's lawful to ship all of our wastes to Virginia, doesn't mean it makes sense economically or politically to do so," he said.

He added that New Yorkers need to focus "on reducing waste and recycling rather than simply adopting the out-of-sight, out-of-mind philosophy, or leaving it to states like Virginia to solve our garbage problem."

Bloomberg has proposed eliminating part of the city's recycling program, contending that it's too costly.

Related Stories
Special Report: City's Been Forced to Talk Trash Again(2/25/02)

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