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High court refuses to review L.A.'s petition in Kern County dumping case

June 2, 2010 |  4:12 pm

The U.S. Supreme Court has refused to review a Los Angeles petition that claimed a voter-approved ban on dumping processed human waste in Kern County violated federal interstate commerce laws.

The Supreme Court declined review Tuesday without comment, letting stand a previous 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals decision that the operations were not protected by federal interstate commerce laws because they involved transfers of a commodity – bio-solids -- from one portion of the state to another.

Now the case will return to U.S. District Judge Gary Feess in Los Angeles, and he must decide whether to retain jurisdiction over remaining state-level claims against the ban, or turn them over to a state court.

Those claims include that the ban known as Measure E exceeds its own policing powers by exerting control over another government entity, and is preempted by state recycling regulations.

Kern County wants the 4-year-old case resolved in state court, which would force Los Angeles to decide whether it wants to start the legal briefing process all over again. Los Angeles, however, would prefer that Feess retain jurisdiction and reaffirm his earlier ruling that the ban impedes interstate commerce.

If Kern County prevails, Los Angeles will have to haul 500,000 tons of sludge a year hundreds of miles to landfills in Arizona at an estimated cost of $4 million, according to the city’s petition.

-- Louis Sahagun