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Kern County's Anti-Sewage Sludge Measure E Blocked Again In Court

Feb 13, 2013

Kern County Government Center in Downtown Bakersfield
Credit Joe Moore / Valley Public Radio

Efforts by Kern County to stop the City of Los Angeles from spreading treated sewage waste on valley farmland have hit another obstacle  today.

On Wednesday, the 5th District Court of Appeals upheld an earlier Superior Court decision granting a preliminary injunction that prevents Measure E from taking effect.

Kern County voters approved the measure back in 2006, which would have stopped the controversial practice, but the law has been stuck in a lengthy court fight ever since.

In a written opinion, the court said that state law takes precedent over the local voter backed measure, and that the record doesn’t support claim that spreading biosolids on farmland is dangerous.  

From the court's opinion:

Just like the district court and the superior court, we conclude that a preliminary injunction was appropriate.  We agree with both courts that plaintiffs were reasonably likely to succeed on two of their contentions:  (1) that Measure E is preempted by the California Integrated Waste Management Act (Pub. Resources Code, § 40000 et seq.) (CIWMA), and (2) that Measure E conflicted with a state constitutional principle known as the regional welfare doctrine and therefore exceeded Kern County’s authority.  We are confident the superior court did not abuse its discretion in granting a preliminary injunction in this case.  First and foremost, the superior court, in a determination not challenged by any party in this appeal, concluded there was no evidence at all of hardship to Kern County if the injunction were granted.  The proponents of Measure E insisted that land application of biosolids is dangerous, but the record in this case so far does not support their view.  At the same time, there is a substantial likelihood of harm, including irreparable harm, to plaintiffs if the preliminary injunction is not granted.