Ohio Sanitary Landfill Deemed a Public Utility for Zoning Purposes and Exempt from Zoning Restrictions

The law firm of Keating Muething & Klekamp represented Rumpke Sanitary Landfill in a three‑year long battle to have the largest sanitary landfill in Ohio declared a public utility under the Township zoning statute and, therefore, exempt from zoning restrictions.  It is the first case decided in Ohio declaring a sanitary landfill a public utility.  In the First District Court of Appeals Judgment Entry, the Court found that:

(1) Rumpke provides virtually all residents and businesses of Southwest Ohio a vital and essential service—the sanitary disposal of solid waste in a facility licensed under R.C. Chapter 3734; (2) Rumpke operates in a monopolistic position with no other cost‑effective alternative to its services; (3) Rumpke is legally required to dispose of all of the city of Cincinnati’s solid waste; (4) Rumpke has pledged, in sworn statements to the Hamilton County Solid Waste Management District and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, that it will remain open and will accept any qualifying solid waste so long as it has the capacity to do so; and (5) the disposal of solid waste is an essential public necessity.  Therefore, Rumpke provides an essential public service, and its operations are a matter of public concern.  As a matter of law, Rumpke was entitled to the trial court’s declaration that it is a public utility for purposes of R.C. 519.211.

This ruling came on the heels of the Supreme Court of Ohio ruling upholding an earlier decision of the First District Court of Appeals declaring unconstitutional a provision excluding Rumpke from being considered a public utility for zoning purposes that had been inserted into a capital appropriations bill. 


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