Lawsuit Challenges Wisconsin Interstate Waste Regulations

Madison, Wis. - A Wisconsin law attempting to control out-of-state waste disposal violates constitutional safeguards protecting interstate commerce, according to the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C.

NSWMA has filed suit in U.S. district court to challenge interstate waste restrictions scheduled to take effect January 1, 1995. These regulations would make out-of-state users of Wisconsin disposal facilities seek state approval of their recycling programs and prove that their states are building new disposal facilities.

A 1990 recycling law requires Wisconsin communities to have comprehensive recycling programs intact before permission is granted to use Wisconsin landfills and incinerators or receive state recycling grants. Under the law, out-of-state communities using Wisconsin disposal sites must have identical recycling programs to those in Wisconsin and also must pass tests which don't apply to local communities.

For out-of-state users, only a municipality can apply for Department of Natural Resources (DNR) approval. This is not the case for in-state applicants. A state sending waste to Wisconsin also must prove that it has developed more landfill and incinerator capacity than it has used during the preceding four years.

"Our members know how to recycle, but Wisconsin's law goes beyond recycling and places burdens on out-of-state communities," said Bruce Parker, general counsel for the association. Parker contends that the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution prevents states from discriminating against interstate commerce by treating waste generated outside the state differently than waste generated within the state.