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Chemical Waste Management v. Hunt

Supreme Court of the United States

April 21, 1991, Argued ; June 1, 1992, Decided

No. 91-471

Opinion

 [*336]  [***128]  [**2011]    JUSTICE WHITE delivered the opinion of the Court.

 Alabama imposes a hazardous waste disposal fee on hazardous  [****5]  wastes generated outside the State and disposed of at a commercial facility in Alabama. The fee does not apply to such waste having a source  [***129]  in Alabama. The Alabama  [*337]  Supreme Court held that this differential treatment does not violate the Commerce Clause. We reverse.

Petitioner, Chemical Waste Management, Inc., a Delaware corporation with its principal place of business in Oak Brook, Illinois, owns and operates one of the Nation's oldest commercial hazardous waste land disposal facilities, located in Emelle, Alabama. Opened in 1977 and acquired by petitioner in 1978, the Emelle facility is a hazardous waste treatment, storage, and disposal facility operating pursuant to permits issued by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) under the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act of 1976 (RCRA), 90 Stat. 2795, as amended, 42 U. S. C. § 6901 et seq., and the Toxic Substances Control Act, 90 Stat. 2003, as amended, 15 U. S. C. § 2601 et seq. (1988 ed. and Supp. II), and by the State of Alabama under Ala. Code § 22-30-12(i) (1990). Alabama is 1 of only 16 States that have commercial hazardous waste landfills, and the Emelle facility is the largest of the 21 landfills of this kind located  [****6]  in these 16 States. Brief for National Governors' Assn. et al. as Amici Curiae 3, citing E. Smith, EI Digest 26-27 (Mar. 1992).

The parties do not dispute that the wastes and substances being landfilled at the Emelle facility "include substances that are inherently dangerous to human health and safety and to the environment. Such waste consists of ignitable, corrosive, toxic and reactive wastes which contain poisonous and cancer causing chemicals and which can cause birth defects, genetic damage, blindness, crippling and death." 2  [*338]  584 So. 2d 1367, 1373 (Ala. 1991). Increasing amounts of out-of-state hazardous wastes are shipped to the Emelle facility for permanent storage each year. From 1985 through 1989, the tonnage of hazardous waste received per year has more than doubled, increasing from 341,000 tons in 1985 to 788,000 tons by 1989. Of this, up to 90% of  [**2012]  the tonnage permanently buried each year is shipped in from other States.

 [****7]  Against this backdrop Alabama enacted Act No. 90-326 (Act). Ala. Code §§ 22-30B-1 to 22-30B-18 (1990 and Supp. 1991). Among other provisions, ] the Act includes a "cap" that generally limits the amount of hazardous wastes or substances 3 that may be disposed of in any 1-year  [***130]  period, and the amount of hazardous waste disposed of during the first year under the Act's new fees becomes the permanent ceiling in subsequent years. Ala. Code § 22-30B-2.3 (1990). The cap applies to commercial facilities that dispose of over 100,000 tons of hazardous wastes or substances per year, but only the Emelle facility, as the only commercial facility operating within Alabama, meets this description. The Act also imposes a "base fee" of $ 25.60 per ton on all hazardous wastes and substances disposed of at commercial facilities, to be paid by the operator of the facility. Ala. Code § 22-30B-2(a) (Supp. 1991). Finally, the Act imposes the "additional fee" at issue here, which states in full:

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504 U.S. 334 *; 112 S. Ct. 2009 **; 119 L. Ed. 2d 121 ***; 1992 U.S. LEXIS 3253 ****; 60 U.S.L.W. 4433; 92 Cal. Daily Op. Service 4577; 92 Daily Journal DAR 7279; 22 ELR 20909; 34 ERC (BNA) 1721; 6 Fla. L. Weekly Fed. S 293

CHEMICAL WASTE MANAGEMENT, INC., PETITIONER v. GUY HUNT, GOVERNOR OF ALABAMA ET AL.

Prior History:  [****1]  ON WRIT OF CERTIORARI TO THE SUPREME COURT OF ALABAMA.

Disposition: 584 So. 2d 1367, reversed and remanded.

CORE TERMS

hazardous waste, disposal, additional fee, Landfill, discriminating, ban, out-of-state, risks, cap, ton, interstate commerce, natural resources, importation, facilities, articles, commerce, sites

Environmental Law, Hazardous Wastes & Toxic Substances, Resource Conservation & Recovery Act, General Overview, Disposal, Storage & Treatment, Constitutional Law, Congressional Duties & Powers, Commerce Clause, Federal Versus State Law, Federal Preemption, Tax Law, State & Local Taxes, Transportation Law, Interstate Commerce, Per Se Invalidity, Governments, Police Powers