The Devil Is in the Details: Articulating Practical Principles for Implementing the Duties in Pennsylvania's Environmental Rights Amendment

48 Pages Posted: 22 Mar 2016 Last revised: 26 Jan 2017

See all articles by Kenneth Kristl

Kenneth Kristl

Widener University Delaware Law School

Date Written: March 21, 2016

Abstract

The 1971 Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution at Article I, Section 27 created individual rights to clean air, pure water, and other environmental features as well as a public trust in the Commonwealth’s public natural resources. Judicial interpretation significantly narrowed Section 27’s reach until the Pennsylvania Supreme Court’s Robinson Township decision in 2013 reinvigorated the Amendment. In the aftermath of Robinson Township, government officials and courts will need guidelines for how to comply with Section 27 in making and reviewing government actions and decisions. This article develops a set of concrete, practical principles for applying Section 27. It explores the meaning of Section 27 based on the text, Robinson Township’s analysis, and principles from private and public trust law. It articulates three concrete principles for the process of applying Section 27 revolving around the need for Pre-Action Assessment of environmental effects, whether direct or indirect and immediate, short- or long-term. It then articulates three concrete principles to guide the substance of Section 27 application. It concludes that commitment to the use of these procedural and substantive principles can provide a road map for Section 27 application that is true to the meaning and import of the Environmental Rights Amendment.

Keywords: environmental law, Pennsylvania, environmental rights, constitutional law

JEL Classification: K32

Suggested Citation

Kristl, Kenneth, The Devil Is in the Details: Articulating Practical Principles for Implementing the Duties in Pennsylvania's Environmental Rights Amendment (March 21, 2016). Georgetown Environmental Law Review, v. 28, 2016; Widener University Delaware Law School Legal Studies Research Paper Series No. 16-02. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2752494

Kenneth Kristl (Contact Author)

Widener University Delaware Law School ( email )

4601 Concord Pike
Wilmington, DE 19803-0406
United States

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