New Jersey Supreme Court to Review Garbage Charge

The New Jersey Supreme Court has decided to consider later this year a case against Passaic County, N.J.'s environmental investment charge (EIC), which a state appeals court declared legal in May.

An EIC is a service charge for waste levied on cities regardless of whether they use county facilities. The city of Paterson, N.J. - Passaic's largest generator of solid waste - had filed a lawsuit against Passaic County in January 1998 seeking to overturn its $30 per ton EIC. According to Paterson's attorney, Sandra Ayres, the city does not use the county's facilities and should not have to subsidize other communities' use.

The suit also alleged that Passaic's EIC was illegal under state law, which only authorizes certain types of solid waste service charges. In May 1999, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court declared that EICs are legal under New Jersey law [see "Court Upholds New Jersey Garbage Charge," Waste Age July 1999, page 38]. Paterson also was ordered to pay $3 million for the next 10 years to the county to make up for the EICs it has not paid.

After the ruling in favor of Passaic County, the National Solid Wastes Management Association (NSWMA), Washington, D.C., and several of its members filed an amicus (friend of the court) brief with the New Jersey Supreme Court urging it to hear the case. NSWMA believes that EICs violate state law and interfere with the market for waste services, according to its brief.

EICs help some New Jersey counties pay off bonds used for operations and maintenance of waste facilities, but representatives for Paterson state the city does not want to be forced to send its waste to the county incinerator when more cost-effective disposal options are available.

The court is expected to issue a decision on the lawfulness of EICs early next year.