On Sept. 5, 2012, the Ohio Supreme Court ruled in the case of
Rumpke Sanitary Landfill, Inc. vs. Colerain Township,
Ohio, Case No. 2011-0181, that the landfill operated by Rumpke
was subject to local zoning regulations and was not an exempt
"public utility." The decision essentially thwarts future
expansion of the landfill and allows the local zoning commission to
regulate the facility based on quality of life issues for
After pursuing an action in Hamilton County Common Pleas Court
against the Township Trustees for denying the company's
application for expansion of its nearly 350 acre landfill
operation, the Common Pleas Court ruled that the landfill was
exempt from local zoning regulations because it fell within the
legal definition of a "public utility". The First
District Court of Appeals upheld the Trial Court's decision and
the Township appealed again. The Ohio Supreme Court reversed the
lower courts and found that Rumpke Sanitary Landfill does not meet
the definition of a "public utility" according to the
Ohio Revised Code Section 519.211 and therefore is subject to local
The Court's analysis focused on determining whether the
facility met the standards for a "public utility"
including considering the factors related to the "public
service" and "public concern" characteristics of a
public utility. The Supreme Court further analyzed whether the
landfill was regulated as a "public utility" and citing a
1939 case found that:
"factors utilized in determining whether an enterprise
conducts itself in such a way as to become a matter of public
concern including the good or service provided, competition in the
local marketplace, and regulation by governmental authority. None
of these factors is controlling. Nevertheless, in a case where the
business enterprise serves such a substantial part of the public
that its rates, charges and methods of operation become a public
concern, it can be characterized as a public utility."
The Court found that the Rumpke Sanitary Landfill operates as a
private sanitary landfill and is not regulated as a public utility
because of the lack of governmental regulation over the
public-service and public-concern factors. In a 7 to 0 decision,
the Ohio Supreme Court reversed the Appellate Court's decision
affirming the Trial Court's declaration that Rumpke is a
"public utility" and not subject to local zoning
requirements and remanded the case back to the Trial Court for
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