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On July 2, 2018, the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board issued an opinion and order related to a discovery dispute, concluding that no discovery was appropriate in a third-party appeal from an amended settlement agreement under the Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act (HSCA).
The Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection signed a prospective purchaser agreement in 2005 with a developer to clean up an abandoned tube manufacturing facility in Chester County, amended the agreement in 2007 and 2010, and published notice of the agreement in 2017 as a settlement under HSCA. Section 1113 of HSCA provides that an appeal of a HSCA settlement agreement must be decided on the administrative record, which is limited to: (1) PADEP’s notice of the proposed settlement, (2) written comments to the settlement, and (3) PADEP’s response to those comments. The Delaware Riverkeeper sought more.
The EHB determined that a party seeking discovery in an administrative record review appeal under Section 1113 of HSCA bears a heavy burden to show discovery is necessary. None of the Delaware Riverkeeper arguments—based on Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, as well as allegations of improper procedure and bad faith—met that burden. The full opinion can be found here.