Judge Lifts Injunction on New York’s Expanded Bottle Bill

New York Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo announced Friday that his office has secured a major victory for New York’s environment and budget by winning a court decision rolling back an injunction that had blocked the State’s new expanded bottle bill, which was enacted by the New York State legislature in April 2009.

“New York's Bottle Bill is a vital and effective environmental law,” said Cuomo in a press release. “The Court's decision yesterday will allow essential, long-overdue updates to the Bottle Bill to finally take effect. Our victory will ensure that the most critical elements of the Bill move forward expeditiously, resulting not only in cleaner communities and new, green jobs but also in over $100 million in added revenue for New York State.”

The “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill,” which became law on April 7, 2009, updated New York’s 1982 Bottle Bill in several ways, most notably expanding it to include bottled water and requiring beverage companies to return 80 percent of unclaimed bottle deposits – an estimated $115 million annually, according to Cuomo’s office – to the state. It also attempts to make the program more user-friendly by improving the infrastructure for collecting and recycling bottles and cans.

The International Bottled Water Association, a trade association, and two bottlers, Nestle Waters North America, and Polar Corp., filed suit to waylay the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill on May 22, 2009, alleging that certain of its provisions were unconstitutional. In June, another judge had issued a broad order enjoining all the provisions of the expanded Bottle Bill until at least April 2010.

Late yesterday, Judge Deborah Batts, a Federal District Court Judge in Manhattan, ruled that some of the most important provisions of the expanded Bottle Bill can now go into effect immediately, including the return of 80 percent of the unclaimed nickels to the state, and increased handling fees for bottle redemption centers.

The judge also ruled that the bottled water industry must comply with the expanded bottled bill by Oct. 22, 2009 unless they can demonstrate that compliance is impossible. Noting that the bottled water industry’s challenge to the expanded bottle bill was “walking on unusually inhospitable legal terrain,” the Judge stated that “it is the Court’s expectation that [bottled water companies] are actively working to achieve compliance” by Oct. 22, 2009.

Only one provision of the expanded bottled bill, which had required bottles sold in New York to have a UPC label code specific to New York, continues to be enjoined indefinitely. The State did not seek to modify that part of the injunction.

TAGS: Legal Plastics