In this case the Commonwealth Court was asked to further elaborate on its holding in City of Reading v. Iezzi, 78 A.3d 1257 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2013). Iezzi held that a municipal recycling fee covering all costs associated with a municipality’s recycling program violated Act 101. Specifically, the issue was whether a partial fee was also in violation of Act 101. While the court remanded the matter for further analysis by the trial court based on its recent decision in Waste Management of Pennsylvania, Inc. v. Department of Environmental Protection, 107 A.3d 273 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2015), the court did hold that a home rule municipality may rely on powers granted to it under its previous governing statute, in this case the Third Class Cities Code.
The City of Reading (the City) imposed a “curbside waste collection fee,” a portion of which included a $90 recycling fee. The fee covered a large portion of the costs of operating the City’s recycling program, but not the entire cost. The Commonwealth Court had previously held in Iezzi that a fee covering all costs associated with a recycling program was inconsistent with Act 101’s purpose of encouraging waste reduction and marketing of recyclables. Based on this case, a group of residents filed a class action complaint against the City asserting its recycling fee similarly violated Act 101. The Court of Common Pleas of Berks County granted declaratory judgment in favor of the City and the residents appealed.
On appeal the Commonwealth Court vacated and remanded the decision for further analysis based on its recent decision in Waste Management. Specifically, the lower court was directed to analyze whether the recycling fee would have a negative impact on the sustainability and ultimate self-sufficiency of the recycling program. However, the court also held that although the City was a home rule municipality, it was not prohibited from exercising powers previously provided to it under the Third Class Cities Code. This meant that the City could rely upon a statute in the Third Class Cities Code that allowed such recycling fees, if the lower court determined that the fee was not preempted by Act 101.
Click here to read: Ziegler v. City of Reading, 10 C.D. 2015 (Pa. Cmwlth. Apr. 20, 2016).