Brief Fact Summary. New Jersey prohibited the importation of most solid or liquid waste, which originated or was collected outside the State. Private landfill operators in New Jersey and several cities in other states that had agreements with New Jersey operators filed suit.
Synopsis of Rule of Law. Although burdens on interstate commerce may be unavoidable when a State legislates to safeguard the health and safety of its people, the court is still alert to the economic isolation and protectionism. A statute can be deemed invalid not solely because the legislature was trying to isolate the state or area, but also because the statute actually isolates the state or area even though legislators did not so intend.
Issue. Does the statutory prohibition on imported solid or liquid waste violate the Commerce Clause because it is a protectionist measure?
Held. Justice Stewart opinion: Yes. New Jersey Supreme Court judgment reversed.
Although the legislative purpose might have been to protect New Jersey’s environment, the legislature could not accomplish that goal by discriminating against articles of commerce coming from outside the State unless there was some reason to treat such articles differently. There is no basis to distinguish out of state waste from domestic waste.
On its face the law is attempting to isolate New Jersey from a problem common to many states by erecting a barrier against the movement of interstate trade. By blocking the importation of waste, New Jersey is trying to saddle those outside the State with the entire burden of slowing the flow of refuse into New Jersey’s remaining landfill sites. That legislative effort violates the Commerce Clause.
This principle that our economic unit is the Nation, which alone has the gamut of powers necessary to control of the economy, has as its corollary that the states are not separable economic units.View Full Point of Law