ZERO WASTE is the recycling of all materials back into nature or the marketplace in a manner that protects human health and the environment.




Court Blocks New Virginia Municipal Waste Daily Volume Laws

A federal judge blocked enforcement of several of Virginia’s new municipal waste laws in a decision issued June 29, in the case of Waste Management Holdings, Inc. v. Gilmore (Governor of Virginia). District Court Judge James R. Spencer held that the laws, which would have restricted river transportation of municipal waste and limited the size of Virginia’s largest landfills, discriminated against interstate commerce in violation of the U.S. Constitution’s implied protection against States interfering with interstate commerce. Judge Spencer held that the new laws were unconstitutionally tainted by Virginia’s publicly announced intentions of reducing waste imports through this legislation. The new laws were slated to take effect July 1st. 

Three of the challenged provisions concerned river transportation of municipal waste. One would have prohibited barge transportation of municipal waste on the Rappahannock, James and York rivers. Virtually no Virginia waste was transported on these rivers and large quantities of New York waste are transported on the James. A related provision would have prevented transportation of municipal waste on any Virginia river until certain regulations were written. The judge held that the purpose and effect of these provisions were discriminatory as they would have had a profound effect on the importation of waste and almost no effect on waste generated within Virginia. A third provision limited the stacking height of waste containers on river barges to less than half of the alleged industry standard. The judge felt that this provision was designed to make river transport economically unfeasible, again disproportionately affecting out-of-state waste. 

The final provision blocked in the court’s decision would have capped the size of Virginia’s largest municipal waste landfills, the only landfills taking any significant amounts of out-of-state waste. These same landfills reportedly accept almost exclusively out-of-state waste. For these reasons, the judge concluded that the cap provision was discriminatory. 

Enforcement of these statutory provisions is now judicially barred by a preliminary injunction until a permanent injunction is issued or denied. That decision will probably not be made for several months, at a minimum. A permanent injunction will not be issued if the Commonwealth of Virginia proves that there were no alternative ways to regulate the waste to meet the legitimate goals of the Commonwealth. In the meantime, Virginia’s Attorney General L. Mark Earley reportedly plans to appeal the preliminary injunction.