First Circuit Rules Puerto Rico Municipal Ordinances Are Preempted
The court determined that the ordinances could not be enforced to the extent they directly conflicted with commonwealth law as promulgated by the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board.
By Karen Aldridge Crawford – June 8, 2017\
The First Circuit determined that the ordinances could not be enforced to the extent they directly conflicted with commonwealth law as promulgated by the Puerto Rico Environmental Quality Board (EQB), but reversed summary judgment in favor of the municipalities and remanded for the district court to enter judgment for AES-PR based on its claim of commonwealth preemption. The court reviewed the Resource Conservation and Recovery Act program and its intent to precipitate cooperation among the federal, state, and local governments. After a serious discussion of the delegation of authority to states and the fact that Puerto Rico’s Environmental Quality Board was given authority to manage solid waste (including coal ash) by the commonwealth—unlike the district court—determined that the EQB resolutions (and permits) carry the force of law and its permits allowing disposal in a sanitary landfill supersede a local ordinance prohibiting that disposal. The court pointed out that the commonwealth’s public policy to give municipalities as much autonomy as possible is limited by a higher power and that “a municipality cannot ‘promote and further its own public policy’ if that policy conflicts with Commonwealth law.”