May 27, 2009
Bottle Bill, Bottled Up
ALBANY — A federal judge on Wednesday temporarily blocked a new state law backed by Gov. David A. Paterson that would have significantly expanded recycling in New York State beginning on June 1.
The ruling, by Judge Thomas P. Griesa of United States District Court in Manhattan, prevents the new law from taking effect until a lawsuit, filed last week by a coalition of bottled-water manufacturers, can be resolved.
The new law would have required retailers to collect a 5-cent deposit on bottled water as well as collect bottles for recycling. Bottlers would have had to stamp all bottled water sold in New York with a new universal product code, a provision the bottlers decried as both unnecessarily onerous and impossible to implement by the June 1 deadline. The law also made it illegal to sell the New York-labeled bottles outside the state, which the bottlers argued was a violation of the Constitution’s protection of interstate commerce.
In granting a preliminary injunction on Wednesday, Judge Griesa said he agreed with the bottlers that the June 1 deadline was simply too early for the companies to have realistically met, given that Mr. Paterson signed the law in April. But he also said that the plaintiffs were almost certain to be successful in overturning the prohibition on sales outside of New York.
The ruling comes as Mr. Paterson and the Legislature, after lobbying from soda companies, retailers, and bottlers, have been considering potential amendments to the new law, including changing the effective date.
“Today, the court recognized the constitutional and due process problems created by the Bottle Bill; beyond that, it will be up to the State Legislature and the governor to address the environmental weaknesses of the new law,” said Kim Jeffery, the president of Nestlé Waters North America, one of the companies that sought the injunction. “It is absolutely critical they act swiftly to make the necessary changes so that New Yorkers have the benefit of healthy choices and environmental stewardship.”