March, 2012, the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Maya van Rossum the Delaware Riverkeeper, seven municipalities, and Dr. Mehernosh Khan filed legal action challenging Act 13, which was signed into law by Governor Corbett on February 14, 2012.  Act 13 amended the Pennsylvania Oil and Gas Act, and was, without a doubt, an incredible overreach and giveaway to the gas drilling industry. Supportive legislators are quick to acknowledge that the industry helped them write the legislation displacing local zoning and providing automatic waivers for the minimal environmental protections, are among the many giveaways the law provided.

The plaintiffs challenged the new law on the grounds that, amongst other things, violated Article 1, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution and endangered public health, natural resources, communities and the environment.

On December 19, 2013, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court issued a final in the case Robinson Township, Delaware Riverkeeper Network, et al.  v. Commonwealth, 83 A.3d 901 (2013).  In the plurality opinion written by the Chief Justice of the Court, the justices vindicated the importance and power of the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution; it promised all generations of Pennsylvanians that they will benefit from pure water, clean air and a healthy environment, giving them the ability to defend that right in the courts if it is violated.

The battle to fully define and defend the environmental rights of the People of Pennsylvania continues with important and incremental successes advancing each year.

Important court opinions that continue to advance the right include:

In addition, we are starting to see government officials rely upon the Pennsylvania Green Amendment, Art 1, Sect 27, in decision making.  A great case in point is the decision by Governor Wolf to veto a bill that would have curbed the right of towns and cities to regulate use of plastic shopping bags – when announcing the veto the Governor said that its passage would have violated the Environmental Rights Amendment of the PA Constitution.

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