On appeal from regulations adopted by the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection and Energy.
Before Judges Stern, Keefe and Humphreys. The opinion of the court was delivered by Humphreys, J.s.c. (temporarily assigned).
The opinion of the court was delivered by HUMPHREYS, J.S.C. (temporarily assigned).
Waste Management of Central Jersey, Inc., ("Waste Management") challenges certain rules adopted by the State of New Jersey, Department of Environmental Protection and Energy ("DEPE") pursuant to the Solid Waste Collection Regulatory Reform Act ("Regulatory Reform Act"). N.J.S.A. 48:13A-7.1 et seq. Waste Management contends that the rules are vague, ultra vires and contrary to the purposes of the Regulatory Reform Act.
We disagree and hold that the rules with a modification are a valid exercise of the supervisory authority of the DEPE over the solid waste collection industry and are consistent with the terms and purposes of the Regulatory Reform Act.
The collection and disposal of solid waste in New Jersey has long been of great concern. The solid waste industry has been plagued for decades with "favoritism, rigged bids, official corruption and the infiltration of organized crime." In re Application of Saddle River, 71 N.J. 14, 22, 362 A.2d 552 (1976).
In 1970, the Legislature sought to regulate the industry by placing it under the supervision of the Board of Public Utilities ("Board"). See the Solid Waste Utility Control Act, N.J.S.A. 48:13A-1 et seq. Under that statute, rates for collection and disposal of solid waste were regulated by the Board. N.J.S.A. 48:13A-4(a); see also N.J.S.A. 48:2-21.
In 1989, the State Commission of Investigation ("SCI") severely criticized public utility rate regulation of the solid waste industry and called for its elimination. The Legislature responded by enacting in 1991 the Regulatory Reform Act. The Legislature determined in the Regulatory Reform Act that "it is in the public interest to establish procedures for the eventual termination of public utility rate regulation of solid waste collectors while at the same time maintaining Board of Public Utilities supervision over the solid waste collection industry." N.J.S.A. 48:13A-7.2. (The authority of the Board is now vested in the DEPE. See Exec. Order No. 38 (1991)).
The Regulatory Reform Act provides for a transition period of four years from "economic regulation to the termination of Board of Public Utilities rate regulation of the solid waste collection industry." N.J.S.A. 48:13A-7.9. However, the Regulatory Reform Act does not place any time limit on state supervision of the industry.
The DEPE prepared rules under the Regulatory Reform Act. Comments on them were received. A public hearing was held. The proposed rules were revised and final rules under the Regulatory Reform Act were adopted. N.J.A.C. 14:3-11.1 et seq.
The DEPE's purpose in adopting the rules was to:
1. Establish rules and procedures for regulatory reform and the eventual termination of traditional public utility rate regulation of the ...