May 23 2014
Widener’s Environmental Law Center has issued a white paper on the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s December 19, 2013 decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth. In this case, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held unconstitutional major parts of Pennsylvania’s “Act 13”—a 2012 oil and gas law designed to facilitate the development of natural gas from Marcellus Shale. In so doing, the Court breathed new life into Article I, Section 27 of Pennsylvania’s constitution, which creates public rights in certain environmental amenities and requires the state to “conserve and maintain” public resources “for the benefit of all the people.” The wide-ranging implications of this decision will be felt for years, perhaps decades.
The White Paper – coauthored by Widener law professors John Dernbach, James May, and Ken Kristl at the Widener University School of Law – does three things. First, it provides a brief introduction to the three players in this drama – Article I, Section 27, the Pennsylvania’s Environmental Rights Amendment; Act 13, and the lower court decision in Robinson Township. It then drills deep into the Supreme Court’s remarkable determination that Act 13 is unconstitutional. Last, it places Robinson Township into context by considering its implications going forward, including at the local, state and global levels.
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