Nevada Supreme Court upholds exclusive-franchise deal to haul waste

The Nevada Supreme Court has ruled local governments can enforce exclusive-franchise agreements with waste-disposal companies.

The court unanimously decided Douglas County could prohibit Wee Haul and NJ Enterprises from collecting and disposing of construction waste in the county because of its agreement with Douglas Disposal to handle that task.

Douglas Disposal filed the lawsuit, but Wee Haul and NJ enterprises argued the county had no authority to sign an exclusive agreement, and that any such agreement would violate the commerce clause of the U.S. Constitution. They said that would be outside the county's authority because, unlike residential or commercial garbage, there is no public health hazard to construction waste.

District Judge David Gamble agreed, but Douglas Disposal appealed to the high court.

"We reject the district court's determination that construction waste does not pose public health and safety concerns," Justice Nancy Saitta wrote in the opinion.

She said the waste could include materials such as asbestos and poses hazards including the possibility of fire.

For the constitutional issue, she said the commerce clause is designed to keep states from preventing the movement of materials across state lines to the detriment of out-of-state commercial interests. She wrote that isn't the case here because the franchise agreement applies both to Nevada and California companies equally.

"Accordingly, we conclude that the county has a legitimate if not compelling interest in regulating construction waste through an exclusive franchise."

The opinion concludes that Douglas County "appropriately exercised its police power in granting the exclusive franchise agreement to collect and dispose of construction waste to Douglas Disposal."

The high court followed that ruling with the same logic in the suit between Independent Sanitation and Empire Contractors. Independent sued, arguing Empire was violating its exclusive-franchise agreement with the Incline Village General Improvement District to haul construction waste.

Again the district court ruled the governmental entity couldn't have an exclusive agreement.

But the high court unanimously overturned that ruling, upholding Independent's exclusive franchise agreement with IVGID.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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