City defends recycling law
Aspen has asked a district court judge to allow the city’s new recycling ordinance to go into effect as planned later this month.In its response to a lawsuit filed by garbage-hauling giant Waste Management of Colorado Inc., the city has asked the court to reject Waste Management’s motion for a temporary injunction that would keep the new law from taking effect.Rather than seek dismissal of the lawsuit, however, the city is also urging the court to promptly give the case “full consideration.”The city denies it has engaged in setting rates for trash haulers, as Waste Management claims in its suit, and argues the company won’t suffer irreparable harm if the ordinance goes into effect, pending the ultimate resolution of the lawsuit.The city’s response was filed Friday in 9th Judicial District Court. The case is before Judge James Boyd.The recycling ordinance, adopted in September by the City Council, requires garbage haulers to charge commercial and residential customers for trash pickup based on the volume of trash customers produce. In addition, the pickup of recyclable materials is to be included in that base rate.Similar volume-based pricing has been adopted in the cities of Boulder and Fort Collins and was supported as legal in a 1991 opinion issued by the Colorado attorney general, the city notes in its memorandum to the court.”The city’s ordinance under consideration here is nothing more than a requirement that trash haulers employ a volume-based pricing method. It does not set or fix any price or rate and thus, cannot be construed as an attempt to regulate rates,” contends the city’s memorandum, prepared by John Worcester, city attorney.The city also denies that the ordinance interferes with existing contracts between haulers and customers. Instead, it contains a provision allowing the city attorney to review any pre-existing contract to determine if it should be exempt, according to the memorandum.In its response, the city also argues that Waste Management can’t show it is likely to succeed in its lawsuit and that Aspen is “entitled to benefit from the presumption that its official acts are legitimate until such time as there is clear and convincing evidence that they are not.”While the city contends Waste Management won’t be harmed by the scheduled startup of the recycling initiative, the memorandum claims Aspen’s reputation could be tarnished if the court orders the ordinance put on hold.If the court orders an injunction, “the city of Aspen, along with its government officials, will be branded as having taken some official action that deprived [Waste Management] of their rights,” according to the city’s memorandum. “The vast majority of the citizens of the city of Aspen and its guests will most likely not be able to appreciate the fact that the temporary injunctive relief has been issued to maintain the status quo and that a final ruling has not been made on the official acts of its elected officials.”Janet Urquhart’s e-mail address is email@example.com
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