August 15, 2009
Way cleared for bottle deposits
Judge tosses earlier ruling that held back start of new law
ALBANY -- The expanded bottle deposit law, blocked for months by an industry lawsuit, is now poised for an October start, according to a ruling by a federal judge.
Advocates for the bottle bill, adopted by the Legislature in April only to be slapped with a lawsuit a month later, welcomed the Thursday decision by U.S. District Judge Deborah Batts.
The judge tossed an earlier court ruling that held back the start of the bottle law until April 2010, saying one of the bottled water companies behind the lawsuit -- Nestle Waters North America -- had admitted it could be ready to follow the law by Oct 1.
Batts ruled that the state could enforce the law after Oct. 22 unless the water companies show why they cannot meet that deadline.
Also, the state can immediately begin keeping 80 percent of the unclaimed deposits that have been going to the bottlers; that means about $12 million a month will flow to the state.
"New York consumers can also expect to see five-cent minimum deposits on bottled water no later than Oct. 22, subject to further court proceedings scheduled for that day," according to Gov. David Paterson.
The judge also cleared the way for stores and redemption centers to begin receiving a 2- to 3.5-cent-per-return handling fee,
Batts preserved an earlier ruling barring the state from requiring bottlers to label their products with a New York-specific code meant to keep people from redeeming nondeposit bottles purchased in other states. The industry said printing new labels will require more time.
"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 the state," said Attorney General Andrew Cuomo, whose office represented the state in court.
It was not immediately clear whether the bottlers will continue their legal battle.
Nestlé Waters North America President Kim Jeffery said his company wants to work with the state to "strengthen the current law." He said deposits also should apply to sweetened drinks instead of just water. And he said the law needs to require the state to use some of its newfound deposit cash to support recycling efforts.
"This decision is more refreshing than an ice-cold beverage on a hot summer day," said Laura Haight, senior environmental associate with the New York Public Interest Research Group, which supported the law. "We are delighted that justice has been served. The Bigger Better Bottle Bill can now move forward with its promise of making our communities cleaner and healthier, creating new green jobs, and generating new revenue for New York."