August 14, 2009
The Bigger Better Bottle Bill Lives!
A federal District Court judge has ruled that some elements of the so-called Bigger, Better, Bottle Bill enacted as part of the 2010 budget can go forward, including the return of 80 percent of the unclaimed nickel deposits to the state and increased handling fees for redemption centers.
AG Andrew Cuomo announced the decision in a press release, calling it a "major victory" for both the environment and the budget, adding:
"The Court's decision yesterday will allow essential, long-overdue updates to the Bottle Bill to finally take effect. Our victory will ensure that the most critical elements of the Bill move forward expeditiously, resulting not only in cleaner communities and new, green jobs but also in over $100 million in added revenue for New York State.”
Judge Deborah Batts rolled back elements of a May injunction that blocked the implementation of the Bottle Bill until April 2010.
Blatts said the bottled water industry must comply with the bill by October 22 unless it can demonstrate that it is impossible to do so. In her decision, Blatts noted that the industry is "walking on unusually inhospitable legal terrain," adding: "It is the Court’s expectation that [bottled water companies] are actively working to achieve compliance."
There is a minor victory here for the industry. One provision of the bill, which required bottles in New York to have a UPC code specific to this state, continues to be enjoined indefinitely. The AG's office did not seek to modify that part of the injunction.
The decision is the result of a lawsuit brought by Nestle Waters, which had challenged the constitutionality of the expansion of the original Bottle Bill to include (what else?) bottled water.
The Bigger, Better Bottle Bill was supposed to go into effect on June 1. The state claimed it was losing $235,000 a day in revenue as a result of the delay.
Cuomo's office sought and received an emergency hearing on the case and also asked for the security bond for Nestle Waters to be increased from $10,000 to $115 million, which was the amount the bill was expected to generate for state coffers.
Blatts denied the motion to increase the bond.
Gov. David Paterson and environmental advocates touted the inclusion of the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill in the 2010 budget at an Earth Day celebration on April 22, but even then there were signs of the trouble ahead.
UPDATE: Nestlé Waters North America President Kim Jeffery called this an "opportunity" for the governor and interested parties to forge a legislative solution to "make the new bottle bill work for all New Yorkers." (More after the jump).
"National experience has shown that effective bottle deposit laws are based on four principles. First, deposits must apply to all beverages, including sports drinks, teas, juices, and energy drinks. Second, the law must make recycling convenient by allowing consumers to return bottles to any retail or redemption center. Third, handling fees must remain reasonable and not burden consumers with hidden costs that they will never get back. Finally, the law must dedicate funding to support community recycling programs. The current New York Bottle Bill fails these tests, and its gaping loopholes and sweetheart deals will hinder recycling." - Nestlé Waters North America President Kim Jeffery