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C&A Carbone, Inc. v. County of Rockland

September 30, 2010

C&A CARBONE, INC., SCUFFY CARTING, INC., PROVENZA CONTRACTING, INC., MR. J. JR. EXCAVATING, INC., AND MICHAEL RICKLI, JR., PLAINTIFFS,
v.
THE COUNTY OF ROCKLAND, LEGISLATURE OF THE COUNTY OF ROCKLAND, ROCKLAND COUNTY SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY, C. SCOTT VANDERHOEF, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS ROCKLAND COUNTY EXECUTIVE, CHRISTOPHER P. ST. LAWRENCE, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS CHAIRMAN OF THE ROCKLAND COUNTY SOLID WASTE MANAGEMENT AUTHORITY, THE TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN, TOWN BOARD OF THE TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN, ALEXANDER J. GROMACK, INDIVIDUALLY AND AS SUPERVISOR OF THE TOWN OF CLARKSTOWN, AND CLARKSTOWN RECYCLING CENTER, INC., DEFENDANTS.



The opinion of the court was delivered by: Kenneth M. Karas, District Judge

OPINION AND ORDER

Plaintiffs C&A Carbone, Inc. ("Carbone"), Scuffy Carting, Inc. ("Scuffy"), and Provenza Contracting, Inc. ("Provenza"), bring this suit against the County of Rockland ("Rockland"), the Legislature of the County of Rockland, the Rockland Solid Waste Management Authority ("the Authority"), C. Scott Vanderhoef, individually and as Rockland County Executive, and Christopher St. Lawrence, individually and as Chairman of the Authority (collectively, "the Rockland Defendants"). Plaintiffs also sue the Town of Clarkstown ("Clarkstown"), the Town Board of the Town of Clarkstown, and Alexander J. Gromack, individually and as Supervisor of Clarkstown (collectively, "the Clarkstown Defendants"). Plaintiffs have further named the Clarkstown Recycling Center, Inc. ("CRC"), a private waste management company, as a defendant. Plaintiffs sue under 42 U.S.C. §§ 1983 ("§ 1983") and 1985(3) ("§ 1985(3)"), for violations of the Commerce, Takings, Due Process, and Equal Protection clauses of the U.S. Constitution. Plaintiffs also allege that Defendants violated New York's State Environmental Quality Review Act ("SEQRA"), N.Y. Comp. Codes R. & Regs. tit. 6, § 617.3 et seq. The Clarkstown Defendants and CRC have moved for judgment on the pleadings pursuant to Fed. R. Civ. P. 12(c).*fn1 For the following reasons, those motions are granted in part and denied in part.

I. Background

A. Facts

This suit is the most recent skirmish in a longstanding dispute between two competing waste-processing companies in Clarkstown, NY: Carbone and CRC. See C & A Carbone, Inc. v. Town of Clarkstown, 511 U.S. 383 (1994) ("Carbone I"). The town of Clarkstown lies in New York's Hudson River Valley, just upstream from the Tappan Zee Bridge and minutes from New Jersey by highway. Carbone I, 511 U.S. at 386. In 1989, Clarkstown decided to build a new solid waste transfer station. Id. at 387. The station would receive bulk solid waste and separate recyclable from nonrecyclable items. Id. Recyclable waste would be baled for shipment to a recycling facility; nonrecyclable waste, to a suitable landfill or incinerator. Id. The cost of building the transfer station was estimated at $1.4 million. Id. CRC agreed to construct the facility at no charge, operate it for five years, and then sell it to the town for one dollar. Id.; (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.) In exchange, the town guaranteed that, during those five years, CRC would receive a minimum waste flow of 120,000 tons per year, for which it could charge the hauler a "tipping fee" of $81 per ton. Carbone I, 511 U.S. at 386; (Am. Compl. ¶ 20.)*fn2 In order to make good on that guarantee, Clarkstown adopted Local Laws 1990, No. 9 of the Town of Clarkstown*fn3 , which required, under criminal penalty, all non-hazardous solid waste within the town to be deposited at CRC's transfer station ("the CRC facility"). Carbone I, 511 U.S. at 386; (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.)

Carbone is CRC's chief competitor. Carbone I, 511 U.S. at 388. It too operates a recycling center in Clarkstown where it receives solid waste, sorts and bales it, and then ships it to other processing facilities. Id. at 387-88. While the 1990 Flow Control Law permitted companies like Carbone to continue receiving solid waste, it required them to bring all nonrecyclable residue from that waste to the CRC facility. Id. It thus prohibited Carbone from shipping the nonrecyclable waste itself, and required Carbone to pay a tipping fee to CRC on trash it already sorted. Id.; (Am. Compl. ¶ 21.)

In 1994, the Supreme Court struck down the ordinance under the dormant Commerce Clause, finding that it "hoard[ed] solid waste, and the demand to get rid of it, for the benefit of the preferred processing facility." Carbone I, 511 U.S. at 392. The law thus "discriminate[d] against interstate commerce" by prohibiting patronage of out-of-state waste-processing facilities. Id. at 390. Therefore, the Supreme Court concluded that "the flow control ordinance is just one more instance of local processing requirements that [the Court] long ha[s] held invalid." Id. at 391.

On June 5, 1996, in the wake of the Supreme Court's ruling, Carbone and Clarkstown settled the dispute. (Am. Compl. ¶ 28.) The Town agreed to pay Carbone $25,000 per year for twenty years (or until Clarkstown built a road providing direct access from the CRC facility to Carbone's facility). (Id.) Clarkstown also agreed to update its zoning laws to authorize Carbone's facility to perform all activities which the CRC facility was authorized to perform. (Id.) By that time, Clarkstown had bought the CRC facility, although CRC continues to operate it. (Id.)*fn4 The two facilities have competed in the waste-processing market since then. (Id. ¶ 29.)

According to the Amended Complaint, Carbone has greatly outperformed its rival. (Id. ¶¶ 30-36.) Specifically, Carbone claims that its facility captures four times as much recyclable material from its waste as the CRC facility does. (Id. ¶ 30.) This increased efficiency allegedly benefits the environment and increases Carbone's revenue by providing it with more recyclable material to sell. (Id.) Carbone asserts that it then passes this efficiency on to the consumer in the form of lower tipping fees. (Id.) Carbone further alleges that, although its facility boasts a safety record that is superior to the CRC facility's (id. ¶¶ 31-35), Clarkstown and Rockland ignore the CRC facility's safety violations (id. ¶ 35), and selectively enforce environmental ordinances against Carbone, (id. ¶ 37). In short, despite the Supreme Court's ruling in Carbone I and the 1996 settlement, Carbone claims that Clarkstown continues to favor the CRC facility over Carbone's. (Id. ¶ 35.)

In 2008, Rockland, in which Clarkstown is located, adopted Local Law No. 2 of 2008 ("the 2008 Flow Control Law"). (Id. ¶ 41.) The law requires that all solid waste generated within the county be processed at one of the facilities designated by the Authority. (Id. ¶¶ 41-49.)*fn5 All facilities that are not so designated are thus barred from competing for the solid waste generated in Rockland and the accompanying tipping fee. (Id. ¶ 61.) In passing the 2008 Flow Control Law, Rockland effectively amended its 1991 solid waste management plan, which had been approved by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation ("DEC"). (Id. ¶¶ 23-24, 53.) The 1991 plan allegedly did not find flow control laws necessary, nor did the accompanying environmental impact statement. (Id. ¶23.) The DEC allegedly did not review or approve the 2008 Flow Control Law. (Id. ¶¶ 53-54, 59.)

The Authority allegedly has "unfettered discretion" to decide which waste-processing stations to "designat[e]," and thereby could award a monopoly to a designated facility. (Id. ¶¶ 59-60.) "Under the 2008 Flow Control Law, a 'designated facility' is 'any publically owned solid waste facility(ies) and/or any solid waste facility(ies) owned and/or operated by the [A]uthority, and designated by the [A]uthority for acceptance or disposal of [] waste . . . .'" (Id. ¶ 49.) In choosing a facility to purchase or designate, the Authority allegedly does not employ a bidding process, evaluative criteria, or award standards. (Id. ¶ 60.) The Authority allegedly has not solicited proposals from facilities that might be interested in being an Authority-designated facility (id.), nor has it investigated its designated facilities or analyzed their environmental record, (id. ¶ 59). Carbone's facility, which has allegedly been disfavored since Carbone I, was not designated (id. ¶ 52), while the CRC facility, which has allegedly been favored since Carbone I, was designated, (id. ¶¶ 60, 68-72).*fn6

The CRC facility allegedly was designated as the result of a deal entered into in or around November 2008 between several Defendants: the Authority, Clarkstown, and CRC (the "November 2008 Deal"). (Id. ¶¶ 56-60, 68-70, 101.)*fn7 In this deal, the Authority agreed to purchase the CRC facility from Clarkstown, presumably for the purpose of "designati[ng]" the facility. (Id. ¶¶ 57, 60, 68.) Upon the sale of the CRC facility from Clarkstown to the Authority, the Authority, in turn, has or will contract with CRC to continue to operate the CRC facility for a five-year term, renewable every five years for up to twenty-five years. (Id. ¶¶ 68, 70, 72.) According to Plaintiffs, the decision to purchase the CRC facility and to contract with CRC to operate it "was not the product of competitive bidding" or the application of "evaluative criteria." (Id. ¶ 69.) The supposed result of the November 2008 Deal is that the 2008 Flow Control Law, as applied, will monopolize the trash-processing industry in favor of a facility which is publically-owned, but operated by a private company pursuant to a twenty-five year, no-bid contract. (Id. ¶¶ 69-71.)*fn8

B. Procedural History

Plaintiffs filed this suit on July 18, 2008, and amended the Complaint on November 12, 2008. (Dkt. Nos. 1, 3.)*fn9 The Clarkstown Defendants moved for judgment on the pleadings on September 29, 2009, and CRC moved to dismiss on October 1, 2009. (Dkt. Nos. 38, 43.) The Court held oral argument on July 1, 2010. ...


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