Environmental Law Posts, from members of Post & Schell’s Environmental Group, are intended to provide current updates and analysis of judicial opinions, emerging regulatory issues, and potential risks and liabilities in environmental law.
As the COVID-19 crisis continues, the ways in which businesses engage in everyday activities is evolving at a pace more rapid than most of us have ever seen in our lives, and hopefully will ever see again. Among these changes is the way businesses address environmental compliance obligations. Two of the more important questions regarding environmental compliance are: (1) Can a business continue environmental investigation and remediation field work?; (2) Can a business cease or reduce its performance of operational compliance obligations?
In these trying times, offering our clients the support they need is of the utmost importance to the Environmental Group at Post & Schell. The past few weeks have left us all navigating uncharted waters, taking each day as it comes, and facing and addressing new and previously unheard of challenges.
Last year, we reported on a Pennsylvania Superior Court decision that addressed the possible waiver of the attorney/client and attorney/work product privileges when the work product is shared with an outside consultant. In Bousamra v. Excela Health, the Superior Court held that when an email from outside counsel was forwarded to a third-party public relations consultant, both the attorney/client privilege and the attorney/work product privilege were waived. That decision was appealed to the Pennsylvania Supreme Court and, in a recently announced decision, the Court has addressed both of those issues.
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.
The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is about to address the question of whether sharing legal advice with outside consultants engaged by the client results in a waiver of the attorney-client privilege or attorney work product privilege. The Superior Court has already partially addressed this question. Last summer in Bousamra v. Excela Health, 167 A.3rd 728 (Pa. Super. 2017), the Superior Court ruled that both the attorney-client privilege and the attorney work-product privilege were waived when an email from outside counsel was shared with an outside consultant. The Supreme Court has granted allocator (Bousamra v. Excela Health, 5 WAP 2018) and the initial briefs in the Supreme Court are due this week.
Often, decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) only impact a narrow range of entities and circumstances.Â However, several recent and pending cases related to environmental issues and land use will instead impact a wide-range of property owners.Â