OREGON WASTE SYSTEMS, INC. v. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY

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Case Basics
Docket No. 
93-70
Petitioner 
Oregon Waste Systems, Inc. et al.
Respondent 
Department of Environmental Quality of The State of Oregon et al.
Consolidation 
No. 93-108
Opinion 
Advocates
(on behalf of the Petitioners)
(on behalf of the Respondent)
Tags
Term:
Location: Landfill
Facts of the Case 

In 1989, Oregon Legislature imposed a surcharge on solid waste generated out- of-state and disposed of within the state. The Department of Environmental Quality, determined the amount of the surcharge to be $2.25 per ton, significantly higher than the $0.85 per ton fee charged for in-state waste. Two waste disposal companies —Waste Systems Inc. and Columbia Resource Company (CRC) — disposed of waste generated out-of-state in Oregon. Waste Systems Inc. managed and owned a landfill in Oregon, and CRC transported waste from Washington State to Oregon. The companies challenged the surcharge in the Oregon Court of Appeals, arguing that it breached the Commerce Clause of the Constitution. However, the appellate court upheld the surcharge, and the Oregon Supreme Court affirmed.

Question 

Is the surcharge that Oregon imposed on the in-state disposal of waste produced out-of-state a violation of the Commerce Clause?

Conclusion 
Decision: 7 votes for Oregon Waste Systems, Inc., 2 vote(s) against
Legal provision: Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 3: Interstate Commerce Clause

Yes. In a majority decision authored by Justice Clarence Thomas, the Court noted that the Commerce Clause prohibits discrimination against interstate commerce, and a regulation is discriminatory if it "taxes a transaction or incident more heavily when it crosses state lines." The majority determined that the surcharge was clearly discriminatory because waste disposal companies were required to pay three times more to dispose of waste produced out-of- state. Thus, for the surcharge to comply with the Commerce Clause, the Department of Environmental Quality needed to demonstrate that it had no choice but to use discriminatory means to serve some local purpose, but it failed to do so. Consequently, the decision of the Oregon Supreme Court was reversed.

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OREGON WASTE SYSTEMS, INC. v. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY . The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law. 01 September 2014. <http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1993/1993_93_70>.
OREGON WASTE SYSTEMS, INC. v. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY , The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1993/1993_93_70 (last visited September 1, 2014).
"OREGON WASTE SYSTEMS, INC. v. OREGON DEPARTMENT OF ENVIRONMENTAL QUALITY ," The Oyez Project at IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law, accessed September 1, 2014, http://www.oyez.org/cases/1990-1999/1993/1993_93_70.