Recognition of Environmental Rights for Pennsylvania Citizens: A Tribute to Chief Justice Castille

36 Pages Posted: 31 May 2015 Last revised: 23 Jul 2015

John C. Dernbach

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School

Marc Prokopchak

Widener University Delaware Law School

Date Written: April 24, 2014

Abstract

This article is based on remarks made at a Special Session of the Pennsylvania Supreme Court at Duquesne University on October 7, 2014 in honor of Chief Justice Ronald Castille. It is about the loss and recovery of the original meaning of the Environmental Rights Amendment (Article I, Section 27) of the Pennsylvania Constitution. As a result of two court decisions in the 1970s, subsequent courts have essentially ignored the history, purpose, and text of Article I, Section 27. In its place, they have mostly applied a judicially-created three-part balancing test as a substitute for the amendment itself.

The recovery of the original meaning began with the Supreme Court’s December 19, 2013 decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth. A plurality of the court, in a scholarly, thoughtful, and detailed opinion by Chief Justice Castille, based its decision on the text, purpose, and history of Article I, Section 27. This article explains why Robinson Township is likely to have staying power even though it did not command a majority of Pennsylvania’s Supreme Court. This article also collects and summarizes 79 judicial and administrative tribunal decisions applying or considering the three-part balancing test as a substitute for the text of the amendment, and demonstrates that the challenging party has almost never prevailed under that test.

Keywords: Chief Justice Castille, environmental, environmental rights, Pennsylvania constitution, Article I, Section 27, Robinson Township, Payne

JEL Classification: K00, K19, K32

Suggested Citation

Dernbach, John C. and Prokopchak, Marc, Recognition of Environmental Rights for Pennsylvania Citizens: A Tribute to Chief Justice Castille (April 24, 2014). Widener Law School Legal Studies Research Paper No. 15-10. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2611997 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2611997

John C. Dernbach (Contact Author)

Widener University - Commonwealth Law School ( email )

3800 Vartan Way
Harrisburg, PA 17110-9380
United States

Marc Prokopchak

Widener University Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States

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