Attorney General Cuomo Announces Significant Court Victory Upholding New Bottle Bill


NEW YORK, NY (August 14, 2009) - Attorney General Andrew M. Cuomo today announced that his office has secured a major victory for New York’s environment and budget by winning a court decision rolling back an injunction that had blocked the State’s new expanded bottle bill, which was enacted by the New York State legislature in April 2009.

“New York's Bottle Bill is a vital and effective environmental law,” said Attorney General Cuomo. “The Court's decision yesterday will allow essential, long-overdue updates to the Bottle Bill to finally take effect. Our victory will ensure that the most critical elements of the Bill move forward expeditiously, resulting not only in cleaner communities and new, green jobs but also in over $100 million in added revenue for New York State.”

The “Bigger, Better Bottle Bill,” which became law on April 7, 2009, updated New York’s 1982 Bottle Bill by, among other ways, expanding it to include bottled water and requiring beverage companies to return 80 percent of unclaimed bottle deposits - an estimated $115 million annually - to the State, and making the program more “user-friendly” by improving the infrastructure for collecting and recycling bottles and cans.

The International Bottled Water Association, a trade association, and two bottlers, Nestle Waters North America, and Polar Corp., brought a challenge to the Bigger, Better Bottle Bill on May 22, 2009, alleging that certain of its provisions were unconstitutional. In June, another judge had issued a broad order enjoining all the provisions of the expanded Bottle Bill until at least April 2010.

Late yesterday, Judge Deborah Batts, a Federal District Court Judge in Manhattan, ruled that some of the most important provisions of the expanded Bottle Bill can now go into effect immediately, including the return of 80 percent of the unclaimed nickels to the state, and increased handling fees for bottle redemption centers.

The judge also ruled that the bottled water industry must comply with the expanded bottled bill by October 22, 2009 unless they can demonstrate that compliance is impossible. Noting that the bottled water industry’s challenge to the expanded bottle bill was “walking on unusually inhospitable legal terrain,” the Judge stated that “it is the Court’s expectation that [bottled water companies] are actively working to achieve compliance” by October 22, 2009.

Laura Haight, Senior Environmental Associate for the New York Public Interest Research Group, said: “We are delighted that the court has lifted its injunction and the Bigger Better Bottle Bill can now move forward with its promise of making our communities cleaner and healthier, creating new green jobs, and generating new revenue for New York. We commend the Attorney General's office for its work to bring the Bigger Better Bottle Bill back on track."

Only one provision of the expanded bottled bill, which had required bottles sold in New York to have a UPC label code specific to New York, continues to be enjoined indefinitely. The State did not seek to modify that part of the injunction.

The case is being handled by New York City Litigation Bureau Chief June Duffy and Assistant Attorney General Frederick Wen of the New York City Litigation Bureau, under the supervision of Leonard Cohen, Deputy Attorney General in the Division of State Counsel.