City of Dallas Defends its Waste Flow Control Law

Date: December 21, 2011

Source: News Room

The City of Dallas is defending its right to impose flow control to require all waste generated in the city be taken to the city's transfer station or its landfill. Last month, an industry group filed a suit in District court challenging the city's flow control ordinance passed in September. The court has since stayed the ordinance pending a hearing on January 12. In response to the lawsuit brought by the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Waste Management, Inc., Republic Services, Inc. and others, the City of Dallas filed its own response asserting its right to pass the law and counter the plaintiffs' argument that the law violates existing franchise agreements.

"In terms of explicit language, the franchise agreement does not grant any absolute right for the franchisee to select that location," the city said in its response. "Contrary to Plaintiffs' contentions, there is no constitutional right to operate a landfill. This lawsuit is Plaintiffs' attempt to accomplish through litigation what they failed to accomplish through the political process."

The city also cites the US Supreme Court's ruling in "United Haulers Association v. Oneida-Herkimer," where the high court upheld flow control for governments that own their own waste facility. In that decision, the Court discussed the extensive benefits of flow control and the public interest involved, the important police powers at issue, the traditional and typical role of government in regulating waste disposal, and the political consideration that the harm of expensive trash removal falls on "the very people who voted for the laws"-meaning that the democratic process itself, and not the judiciary, is the appropriate "restraint" on state action.

In response to the charge that the only goal of the ordinance is to generate revenue for the city, Dallas claimed in the filing, "The city, first and foremost, may identify a legitimate public purpose without any need to ask what the actual motivation was behind the ordinance."

The city also denies that it assigned away its sovereign power to decide the location of waste disposal, as alleged by the plaintiffs, arguing that nothing in its contracts would support such a claim. The city claims that it is precisely the kind of issue properly left to the political process, and the federal judiciary has no obvious role in declaring the proper waste-management policies of a state municipality.

The City has a website to provide information on the issue:

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