This case arises by way of a complaint in lieu of prerogative writs. All defendants have joined in a motion for dismissal of plaintiff's complaint, asserting that this court lacks jurisdiction to hear an appeal from the decision of a state agency. Briefly stated, the contentions are as follows:
The County of Essex, through its board of freeholders and the Essex County Improvement Authority (hereinafter, plaintiffs), have asked this court to enjoin the Department
of Environmental Protection and the Commissioner thereof (hereinafter, Department) from conducting further hearings and granting a registration to defendant Combustion Equipment Associates (C.E.A.) to construct and operate a solid waste disposal facility under a contract dated June 1, 1977 between C.E.A. and defendant City of Newark (City).
Plaintiffs contend that under the provisions of the Solid Waste Management Act, L. 1975, c. 326, codified as N.J.S.A. 13:1E-1 et seq. (hereinafter, the act), they have exclusive jurisdiction for the planning of solid waste disposal in their district for a period of 360 days. Plaintiffs further contend that if a registration is issued to C.E.A., the capacity of the proposed C.E.A. plant would be sufficient to accommodate all of the solid waste in the district and would in effect usurp the jurisdiction of plaintiff as set forth in the act.
Defendant Department contends that the act does not deprive it of power to act in this field and that its jurisdiction is concurrent with that given to the county.
Defendants city and C.E.A. claim that their contract was "in force" on the effective date of the act and therefore it is exempt from the provisions of the act.
For reasons hereinafter stated, defendants' motions to dismiss the complaint are denied.
Plaintiffs seek a declaration of the powers granted to them under the act, as opposed to the powers granted to the Department. They are not appealing a determination of the Department. In effect, this court has been asked by plaintiff to determine the intent of the Legislature.
There being no case law, it is necessary to interpret the language of the act as it is clarified by its legislative history.
The major thrust of the act is to regionalize the solid waste collection and disposal functions by designating each county and the Hackensack Meadowlands Development Commission as "solid waste management districts" with ...