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Environmental Law Posts

An Independent Environmental Quality Board for Pennsylvania >
August 3, 2018
By: Terry R. Bossert
My colleague Michael Canavan and I recently examined this problem in an article for The Legal Intelligencer's Energy & Environmental Law Supplement ("Environmental Quality Board: Is It Time to Make it Truly Independent?"). There are a variety of issues that keep the EQB from delivering on its assigned power and duties, including the fact that the board has had little or no staff throughout its 50-year history placing many of its presumed duties back on the DEP.
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Ensuring That Your Voluntary Cleanup Gets You What You Need - Overcoming Bars to Contemplated Uses >
July 12, 2018
By: Paul M. Schmidt
As the desirability of mixed use development continues to increase, so too will the need to ensure that remediation will allow all intended uses. On that point, one of our manufacturing clients recently found itself in a surprising dilemma when it decided to modify the planned use of the property. The client decided to not only acquire a bigger facility to accommodate increased operations, but also to engage in side-activities that it hoped would be lucrative, fun, and beneficial to the community.
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PA Supreme Court Rules Against PADEP “Mere Presence” and “Water-to-Water” Discharge Theories >
April 2, 2018
By: Terry R. Bossert and Aaron S. Mapes
In a 5-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court decided last week that the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection cannot assess daily penalties under the Clean Streams Law on the basis that contaminants released to groundwater, or other “Waters of the Commonwealth,” remain in those “waters” or have migrated from one “water” to another. The Court struck down the so-called “mere presence” and “water-to-water” discharge theories, put forth by PADEP in opposition to a declaratory judgment action filed by EQT Production Company. PADEP had used these theories of liability to support, in part, an over $4.5 million civil penalty lodged against EQT for a release of hydraulic fracturing “flow-back” water from a lined impoundment.
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EPA's Latest Attempt to Supercharge Superfund Cleanups >
March 15, 2018
By: Michael P. Canavan
Scott Pruitt, the fourteenth Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), recently appeared on The New York Times' The Daily podcast, where he outlined his vision for the EPA, discussed his view of its societal role, and answered questions about specific goals he sought to accomplish during his time at the helm of the EPA.
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The Commonwealth Court's Stripper Well Decision - Does it Warrant the Angst? >
April 24, 2017
By: Terry R. Bossert
On March 29, 2017, the Commonwealth Court issued its decision in Snyder Brothers, Inc. v. Pennsylvania Public Utility Commission (1043 C.D. 2015). The decision appears to be a simple legal interpretation of the statutory definition of "stripper well" in a manner beneficial to Snyder Brothers and potentially generally beneficial to the unconventional natural gas industry. However, media attention and political reactions have far outstripped the Court's basic legal analysis. The decision has been cited as a harbinger of diminished impact fee revenue; as a reason to amend Act 13; and, not unexpectedly, as a justification for a new severance tax. The reactions, while not unexpected, are perhaps overstated.
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Pennsylvania Supreme Court to Determine the Scope of Monetary Penalties Allowed Under the Clean Streams Law >
February 22, 2017
By: Terry R. Bossert and Aaron S. Mapes
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (“PADEP”) has appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court an order of the Commonwealth Court which significantly limits the amount of monetary penalties PADEP can assess under the Pennsylvania Clean Streams Law (“CSL”). Although it is still early in the proceedings, it appears likely that the Supreme Court's decision could provide important precedent regarding the extent to which PADEP can assess civil penalties under the CSL, especially if the Court accepts and addresses all of the issues PADEP has asserted are implicated by the Commonwealth Court's decision.
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PA DEP Evaluates Itself >
January 19, 2017
By: Terry R. Bossert
Recently, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued a press release announcing its internal review of the expedited review process for the Erosion and Sediment Control General Permit (ESCGP-2). At the same time, DEP made available an Internal Review document discussing its audit of the expedited review process.
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