Monday, January 10, 2011

Chancery Court Upholds Delaware's Recycling Law

The Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) announced Friday that Chancery Court had dismissed a challenge to the state's new recycling law by the Positive Growth Alliance (PGA).

The central point to the suit was the question of whether the General Assembly had properly enacted the four cent bottle fee. The plaintiffs asserted that the fee was a tax, and thus SB 234 should have originated in the House and required a 3/4 majority. The Court found that the law was enacted properly.

But beyond that particular question, the PGA had raised broader questions about the new law. The suit asserts that "the passage of SB 234 represents an unwarranted expansion and abuse of the police powers of the State of Delaware."

The law itself does not mention any police powers, and there are no penalties for residents that don't separate their recycling from the rest of their trash. As the News Journal reports,
PGA director Rich Collins is not letting up on his rhetoric:

"It is a clear warning, as the years go by and the precedents build up and the assumption that the state always has the benefit of the doubt, that it's inevitable that the Constitution and the ability to enforce it will get weaker and weaker," Collins said.

I just can't see how enacting statewide recycling threatens our constitutional form of government. The law was passed in accordance with the democratic institutions established under the state constitution, and upheld by the respected Chancery Court.

The state has regulated trash collection for decades, and requires municipal solid waste to be delivered to the Delaware Solid Waste Authority. There is good reason for this: unregulated landfills pose a clear risk to public health. The recycling law doesn't mandate a new "marginally related service," as the suit asserts.
As I said in September, the only difference that I can see is that the same trucks will deliver material to a recycling facility on Tuesday and to a landfill on Friday.

Governor Jack Markell stressed the practical economic and environmental benefits of statewide recycling:

"A broad and bipartisan coalition of businesses, community groups and individuals came together to turn the possibility of statewide recycling into a reality. We're pleased with the decision," said Delaware Governor Jack Markell. "The effort reduces waste, reduces the need for costly landfill expansions in the future and makes recycling easier for most and more available across the state."

Given that the state has already regulated trash disposal for decades, it seems to me a prudent step to slow the accumulation of trash in expensive landfills by diverting recyclable materials.

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