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City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey, 437 U.S. 617 (1978)

City of Philadelphia v. New Jersey

No. 77-404

Argued March 27, 1978

Decided June 23, 1978

437 U.S. 617


New Jersey statute (ch. 363) that prohibits the importation of most "solid or liquid waste which originated or was collected outside the territorial limits of the State . . ." held to violate the Commerce Clause of the United States Constitution. Pp. 437 U. S. 621-629.

(a) All objects of interstate trade merit Commerce Clause protection, and none is excluded from the definition of "commerce" at the outset; hence, contrary to the suggestion of the court below, there can be no doubt that the banning of "valueless" out-of-state wastes by ch. 363 implicates constitutional protection. Bowman v. Chicago & Northwestern R. Co., 125 U. S. 465, distinguished. Pp. 437 U. S. 621-623.

(b) The crucial inquiry here must be directed to determining whether ch. 363 is basically an economic protectionist measure, and thus virtually per se invalid, or a law directed at legitimate local concerns that has only incidental effects on interstate commerce. Pike v. Bruce Church, Inc., 397 U. S. 137, 397 U. S. 142. Pp. 437 U. S. 623-624.

(c) Since the evil of protectionism can reside in legislative means as well as legislative ends, it is immaterial whether the legislative purpose of ch. 363 is to protect New Jersey's environment or its economy, for, whatever the purpose, it may not be accomplished by discriminating against articles of commerce coming from outside the State unless there is some reason, apart from their origin, to treat them differently. Both on its face and in its plain effect, ch. 363 violates this principle of nondiscrimination. A State may not attempt to isolate itself from a problem common to many by erecting a barrier against the movement of interstate trade, as ch. 363 seeks to do by imposing on out-of-state commercial interests the full burden of conserving New Jersey's remaining landfill space. Pp. 437 U. S. 625-628.

(d) The New Jersey statute cannot be likened to a quarantine law which bans importation of articles of commerce because of their innate harmfulness, and not because of their origin. Though New Jersey concedes that out-of-state waste is no different from domestic waste, it has banned the former while leaving its landfill sites open to the latter, thus trying to saddle those outside the State with the entire burden of slowing the flow of wastes into New Jersey's remaining landfill sites. Pp. 437 U. S. 628-629.

73 N.J. 562, 376 A.2d 888, reversed.

Page 437 U. S. 618

STEWART, J., delivered the opinion of the Court, in which BRENNAN, WHITE, MARSHALL, BLACKMUN, POWELL, and STEVENS, JJ., joined. REHNQUIST, J., filed a dissenting opinion, in which BURGER, C.J., joined, post, p. 437 U. S. 629.

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