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City of Los Angeles v. County of Kern

September 9, 2009

CITY OF LOS ANGELES; ORANGE COUNTY SANITATION DISTRICTS; RESPONSIBLE BIOSOLIDS MANAGEMENT, INC.; R & G FANUCCHI INC.; SIERRA TRANSPORT INC.; CALIFORNIA ASSOCIATION OF SANITATION AGENCIES; SHAEN MAGAN, INDIVIDUALLY AND DBA'S HONEY BUCKET FARMS; TULE RANCH/MAGAN FARMS; WESTERN EXPRESS INC., PLAINTIFFS-APPELLEES, AND KERN COUNTY WATER AGENCY; ASSOCIATION OF IRRITATED RESIDENTS; ARVIN-EDISON WATER STORAGE DISTRICT; KERN WATER BANK AUTHORITY, INTERVENORS,
v.
COUNTY OF KERN; KERN COUNTY BOARD OF SUPERVISORS, DEFENDANTS-APPELLANTS.



Appeal from the United States District Court for the Central District of California. Gary A. Feess, District Judge, Presiding. D.C. Nos. CV-06-05094-GAF & 2:06-cv-05094-GAF-VBK.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: O'scannlain, Circuit Judge

FOR PUBLICATION

OPINION

Argued and Submitted March 2, 2009

Submission vacated March 19, 2009

Resubmitted September 9, 2009 -- Pasadena, California

Before: Diarmuid F. O'Scannlain, Pamela Ann Rymer, and Kim McLane Wardlaw, Circuit Judges.

We must decide whether recyclers challenging a local ordinance that bans a particular method of waste disposal have prudential standing to raise its constitutionality under the dormant Commerce Clause.

I.

A.

The fact that the subject matter of the case before us involves sewage sludge will be of no surprise to those familiar with the negative implications of the Commerce Clause. For our purposes, sludge is the "solid, semi-solid, or liquid residue generated during the treatment of domestic sewage." 40 C.F.R. § 503.9(w). Here, we deal with the "land application" of "biosolids": essentially, a particular recycling method which involves the use of treated sludge as fertilizer.*fn1 See 40 C.F.R. § 503.11(h) ("Land application is the spraying or spreading of sewage sludge onto the land surface; the injection of sewage sludge below the land surface; or the incorporation of sewage sludge into the soil so that the sewage sludge can either condition the soil or fertilize crops or vegetation grown in the soil.").

In 2006, voters in Kern County, California ("Kern"), adopted a local ordinance ("Measure E" or the "Ordinance") by ballot initiative that makes it "unlawful for any person to Land Apply Biosolids to property within the unincorporated area of the County." Violation of the Ordinance is a misdemeanor punishable by "a fine of not more than $500 or by imprisonment of not more than six months." By its terms, the Ordinance applies to both in-county and out-of-county waste generators. In practical effect, however, because Kern does not currently apply its biosolids to land within the county, Measure E does not directly impact Kern's own waste disposal programs.

Prior to the Ordinance, in-state waste generators frequently disposed of their biosolids by land application at various farms throughout the unincorporated area of Kern County.*fn2

For example, the City of Los Angeles, Orange County Sanitation District, and County Sanitation District No. 2 of Los Angeles County ship large amounts of waste generated by their residents to Green Acres, Honey Bucket Farms, and Tule Ranch. If these generators were precluded from land applying their biosolids in Kern County, they would be required to find alternative locations to dispose of their sludge. They have submitted declarations pointing to ...


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