Appeals from the Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Adams County in the case of Keystone Sanitation Co., Inc., et al. v. Union Township, No. 84-S-605.
Donald H. Yost, Blakey, Yost, Bupp & Schaumann, for appellant/appellees.
James T. Yingst, Buchen, Wise, Dorr & McKonly, for appellee/appellant.
Judges Craig, Doyle and Colins, sitting as a panel of three. Opinion by Judge Colins.
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 523]
On September 13, 1984, Union Township (Township) in Adams County, Pennsylvania, adopted a Waste Disposal Privilege Tax Ordinance imposing a seven per cent (7%) tax on the gross receipts of businesses engaged in waste disposal. These businesses include sanitary landfills, treatment facilities, and refuse disposal facilities. At the time of the enactment of the ordinance, there were two facilities in the Township which fit within the above-described class of taxpayers, the Borough of Littlestown Sewage Treatment Plant and the Keystone Sanitation Co., Inc. (Keystone). It is undisputed that the Borough of Littlestown Sewage Treatment Plant is exempt from the subject tax because it is owned and operated by the Borough of Littlestown, thus leaving Keystone as the sole subject of the tax.
Pursuant to Section 6 of The Local Tax Enabling Act (Tax Act), Act of December 31, 1965, P.L. 1257, 53 P.S. § 6906, Keystone filed a Petition for Appeal in the Court of Common Pleas of Adams County.*fn1 The trial court conducted an evidentiary hearing on September 12 and 13, 1985, and on January 10, 1986, filed its opinion. The trial court's order became final on February 13, 1986, after the trial court dismissed Motions for Post-Trial Relief filed by both parties. The order of the trial court is as follows:
And Now, this 10th day of January, 1986, the tax is declared to be excessive and is reduced to two per cent.
Both parties have filed cross-appeals with this Court.
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 524]
The issues presented by this appeal are:
(1) Whether the tax in question is preempted by the Solid Waste Management Act (Solid Waste Act), Act of July 7, 1980, P.L. 380, 35 P.S. §§ 6018.101-1003;
(2) Whether the trial court erred in determining the tax in question was excessive;
(3) Whether the trial court erred in sustaining the tax at the rate of two per cent (2%) after finding the tax excessive.
We shall address these issues seriatim.
When laws, such as the Solid Waste Act, are silent as to whether municipalities are or are not permitted to regulate a field also regulated by the Commonwealth, the issue of whether municipal action is permissible must be determined by an analysis of the provisions of the relevant legislation in order to ascertain the probable intention of the legislature in that regard. City of Pittsburgh v. Allegheny Valley Bank of Pittsburgh, 488 Pa. 544, 412 A.2d 1366 (1980). The purpose of the Solid Waste Act is as follows:
The Legislature hereby determines, declares and finds that, since improper and inadequate solid waste practices create public health hazards, environmental pollution and economic loss, and cause irreparable harm to the public health, safety and welfare, it is the purpose of this act to:
(1) establish and maintain a cooperative State and local program of planning and technical and financial assistance for comprehensive solid waste management;
(2) encourage the development of resource recovery as a means of managing solid waste, conserving resources, and supplying energy;
(3) require permits for the operation of municipal and residual waste processing and disposal
[ 104 Pa. Commw. Page 525]
systems, licenses for the transportation of hazardous waste and permits for hazardous waste storage, treatment, and disposal;
(4) protect the public health, safety and welfare from the short and long term dangers of transportation, processing, treatment, storage and disposal of all wastes;
(5) provide a flexible and effective means to implement and enforce the provisions of this act;
(6) establish the Pennsylvania Hazardous Waste Facilities Plan, which plan shall address the present and future needs for the treatment and disposal ...