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C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Clarkstown

Citation. 511 U.S. 383, 114 S. Ct. 1677, 128 L. Ed. 2d 399, 1994 U.S. 3477.
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Brief Fact Summary.

The Respondent, Clarkstown, New York (Respondent), required all wastes collected within the town to be deposited at a designated private waste station. Whereupon, the station would collect a certain fee. The Petitioner, C & A Carbone, Inc. (Petitioner), wanted to send its Clarkstown wastes collected to an out-of-state station, which charged a lower fee.

Synopsis of Rule of Law.

The Commerce Clause forbids the enactment of local laws that impose commercial barriers or discriminate against an article of commerce by reason of its state origin or destination


The Respondent subsidized a private waste disposal station by guaranteeing a minimum flow of waste to a private waste station and allowing the station to charge a certain fee. To assure the guaranteed flow, the Town enacted a “flow control ordinance” whereby all solid waste collected from within the town were required to be deposited at the designated station. Petitioner, a private recycling facility, collected waste from elsewhere in New York and in New Jersey. Without the flow control ordinance in effect, Petitioner would have sent its non-recyclable waste to an out-of-state waste station and paid a lower fee for disposal.


Was the Respondent’s flow control ordinance in violation of the Commerce Clause?


Yes. The judgment of the lower court is reversed and the case is remanded for proceedings not inconsistent with this decision.
While the immediate effect of the ordinance is local in scope, its economic effects are interstate in reach. The Petitioner’s facility receives wastes from places outside of Clarkstown and even out-of-state. To require such wastes to be channeled to the designated Clarkstown facility with its higher fees, drives up the costs of out-of-state interests to dispose of their wastes. Moreover, with regard to wastes originating in Clarkstown, by preventing everyone but the designated facility to dispose of wastes, the ordinance deprives out-of-state businesses access to the local market.
Concurrence. Justice Sandra Day O’Connor (J. O’Connor) wrote that because the in-town processors and the out-of-town processors are treated equally, she could not agree that the ordinance discriminated against interstate commerce. The ordinance is unconstitutional, however, because it imposed an excessive burden on interstate trade relative to the benefit it conferred.


Perhaps, the Supreme Court of the United States’ real concern here is with regard to interstate retaliation. The fear is that this type of regulation by New York will trigger similar retaliatory regulations by other states, thereby negatively affecting the national economic market.

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