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Judge rules in town’s favor in yellow bag suit

Southold Town’s “yellow bag” recycling law is legal, a state Supreme Court justice ruled last month, ending a years-long legal battle against the town by Go-Green Sanitation.

The ruling by Justice Paul Baisley Jr. found the town-issued yellow bag — which residents are required to use for garbage pick-up — didn’t violate the town’s authority as an illegal tax because it was designed to encourage recycling which “bears a reasonable relation to the public good.”

Supervisor Scott Russell said he was “not surprised” the judge ruled in the town’s favor.

“I’m glad it’s been put to bed,” Mr. Russell said. “I know the yellow bag rule isn’t the most popular, but I think it’s the least objectionable rule out there.” Mr. Russell said he remains open to other ideas.

The town initially cited Go-Green in March 2012 for breaking the yellow bag rule by picking up regular garbage bags. The sanitation carrier counter-sued the town, claiming their due process rights had be violated when the company was barred from doing business in town and later elevated their claim to federal court.

In federal legal filings, Go-Green accused the town of violating the Constitution and federal anti-trust laws because the yellow bag law prevented the company from collecting garbage not contained in those bags.

Riverhead-based attorney Frank Eisler, who served as outside counsel for the town, said that case was ultimately pushed back to state court when a federal judge found the federal claims weren’t warranted.

Mr. Eisler said the temporary restraining order against Go Green was eventually lifted when the company agreed to follow the law while the state supreme court case was pending.

In his ruling last month, Justice Baisley dismissed the two other claims by Go-Green which alleged the company’s due process rights were violated, saying too much time had passed.

Mr. Eisler said he believes the justice determined “the correct reading of the law” by ruling in the town’s favor, adding that the yellow bag rule was part of the town’s regulatory plan for solid waste management.

“When looked at it in that way, it’s not an illegal tax it’s actually a valid legislative action,” he said.

An attorney for Go-Green couldn’t be reached for comment.

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