Waste haulers have no standing to challenge City’s permit ordinance.

Cibolo Waste, Inc. v. City of San Antonio, No. 12-50153 (5th Cir. May 15, 2013)

Several waste haulers challenged the City of San Antonio’s ordinance imposing a permit fee of $2,250 for each vehicle weighing over 7,000 pounds used to collect or dispose of solid waste in San Antonio.  This is flat fee regardless of whether the City’s landfills are used.  The waste haulers principle argument was the ordinance violated the U.S. Constitution’s Commerce Clause.  The trial court dismissed the haulers’ claims on summary judgment and the haulers appealed. The Fifth Circuit affirmed.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit first held that the haulers had “Article III” standing to challenge the ordinance since it directly increased their operations costs. However, the court noted that the haulers lacked “prudential standing” which embodies “judicially self-imposed limits on the exercise of federal jurisdiction.” The key inquiry for prudential standing is whether the injury arguably is within the zone of interests to be protected by the dormant Commerce Clause. This analysis requires looking at whether the regulatory measures were designed to benefit in-state economic interests by burdening out-of-state competitors.  In other words, is the regulation motivated by a discriminatory purpose, or does it merely have a discriminatory effect.

The court held the ordinance at issue does not facially discriminate against out-of-state economic interests.  Further all of the haulers conceded they only operate within Texas and have no plans to expand. The ordinance is a type of blanket prohibition that favors neither interstate nor intrastate commerce.  Additionally, the haulers cannot establish the regulation places an excessive burden on interstate commerce. The only parties that have standing to bring a dormant Commerce Clause challenge are those who both engage in interstate commerce and can show that the ordinance at issue has adversely affected their business.  The haulers failed on all counts.  As a result, the ordinance is upheld and the summary judgment is affirmed.

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