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Showing 51 posts in Pennsylvania.

In a split 3-2 decision, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held that the rule of capture applies to gas wells completed using hydraulic fracturing, though the Court’s holding was limited by the undeveloped factual record in the case. See Briggs v. Southwestern Energy Production Co., No. 63 MAP 2018 (Pa. Jan. 22, 2020). With the Court’s decision, Pennsylvania joins Texas and other states that have applied the rule of capture to hydraulic fracturing. The narrow scope of the Court’s holding, however, makes it almost certain that neighboring landowners will continue to assert trespass and conversion claims against developers in Pennsylvania engaging in hydraulic fracturing until the law is further developed. Read More »

On January 15, 2020, Judge Gerald J. Pappert of the Eastern District of Pennsylvania dismissed two groups of private plaintiffs’ claims against the United States Navy regarding perfluorocarbon contamination, PFOS and PFOA, in drinking water supplies around former Navy facilities in Bucks and Montgomery Counties, Pennsylvania. Giovanni v. U.S. Dept. of Navy, No. 16-4873, 17-765, -- F.Supp.3d --, 2020 WL 224683 (E.D. Pa. Jan. 15, 2020). Read More »

Last month in a 2-1 split, the Third Circuit held that state, not federal, law determined how much a landowner was entitled to as just compensation in condemnation proceedings brought by private entities under the Natural Gas Act of 1938. Tennessee Gas Pipeline Co., LLC v. Permanent Easement for 7.053 Acres, No. 17-3700 (3d Cir. July 23, 2019). The precedential decision will force natural gas companies to account for differences in state law in negotiations with landowners over what constitutes “just compensation” for a taking.   Read More »

On Monday, July 29, 2019, a seven-judge panel of the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court, in Pa. Envtl. Defense Found. v. Commonwealth, No. 228 M.D. 2012 (Pa. Cmwlth. Dec. 12, 2018) (“PEDF III”), held that two-thirds of rental payments and up-front bonuses received by the Commonwealth as proceeds from oil and gas leases on state forest and park lands must be reserved for conservation purposes under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, also called the Environmental Rights Amendment (“ERA”). Read More »

On June 21, 2019, the Supreme Court handed down a 5-4 decision in Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, shaking up Fifth Amendment takings claim jurisprudence. Knick v. Township of Scott, Pennsylvania, 139 S.Ct. 2162 (2019). In Knick, the Court held that a property owner has an actionable Fifth Amendment takings claim at the moment a state or local government takes her property without paying just compensation, and that violation of the Fifth Amendment can be remedied in federal court via a civil rights action under 42 U.S.C. § 1983. The ruling overturned years of precedent that held that a plaintiff could not bring a takings claim in federal court against a state or local government until she had first exhausted her state court remedies. Knick specifically overruled Williamson County, the 1985 case which established the state-litigation requirement. Williamson County Regional Planning Comm’n v. Hamilton Bank of Johnson City, 473 U.S. 172 (1985). Read More »

Two recent decisions from two different states, Pennsylvania and West Virginia, suggest that courts are becoming increasingly skeptical of landowners seeking to capitalize on oil and gas companies utilizing horizontal directional drilling (HDD) to access resources under the property of the landowners. Read More »

On Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued an order refusing to hear an appeal of the Commonwealth Court’s holding that municipalities lack the authority to regulate in the areas of environmental protection reserved to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Frederick v. Allegheny Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., 196 A.3d 677 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2018).  Read More »

Last week, Judge Chad F. Kenney, former Delaware County Court of Common Pleas Judge and recent appointee to the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, granted Defendant Bethlehem Landfill Company’s motion to dismiss a putative class action alleging that landfill odors created a public and private nuisance for all households within a 2.5-mile radius of the facility. Baptiste v. Bethlehem Landfill Co. et al., No. 18-2691, 2019 WL 1219709 (E.D. Pa. Mar. 13, 2019). The lead plaintiffs, Robin and Dexter Baptiste, reside 1.6 miles from the facility and allege that odors from the facility impacted their property value and ability to enjoy their property. Id. at *5. They alleged that the conditions affected 8,400 households within a 2.5-mile radius. Id.  They styled their claims as claims for public nuisance, private nuisance, and negligence. Id. at *1. Read More »

Last week, the Commonwealth Court decided that municipalities lack the authority to regulate in the areas of environmental protection reserved to the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection. Frederick v. Allegheny Twp. Zoning Hearing Bd., No. 2295 C.D. 2015 (Oct. 26, 2018).  In this latest judicial decision addressing Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the “Environmental Rights Amendment”), the Court upheld a zoning ordinance that makes oil and gas development a permitted use by right in all zoning districts, including residential and agricultural districts, subject to certain standards related to road safety; the clearing of brush and trees; emergency planning; dust, noise and lighting controls; and security measures. Read More »

Last week, the United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit resurrected two separate lawsuits filed by residents living near the Willow Grove Naval Air Reserve Station in Horsham Township, Pennsylvania and the Naval Air Development Center in Warminster Township, Pennsylvania, which both seek to have the Navy fund medical monitoring programs for exposure to drinking water impacted by two emerging contaminants – perfluorooctanoic acid (“PFOA”) and perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (“PFOS”) – attributable to operations at the two Naval facilities.  In two parallel cases that were joined for appeal – Giovanni et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Navy and Palmer et al. v. U.S. Dep’t of the Navy, 2018 WL 4702222 (3d Cir. Oct. 2, 2018) – the Third Circuit held that the residents’ claims for medical monitoring under the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (“HSCA”) were not barred by the Navy’s ongoing investigation and remediation at the sites under the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation, and Liability Act (“CERCLA”), because a request for medical monitoring “does not interfere with or alter the ongoing cleanup efforts.”  In contrast, the Third Circuit affirmed the dismissal of the residents’ separate claim that sought to have the Navy perform a government-led health assessment or health effects study, which was barred as a challenge to the Navy’s ongoing response actions at the sites. Read More »