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The Pennsylvania Supreme Court Reexamines the Environmental Rights Amendment

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court has rejected the long-standing test for analyzing claims brought under Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, commonly known as the Environmental Rights Amendment (ERA). In its June 20, 2017 decision in Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Foundation (PEDF) v. Commonwealth, the Supreme Court set aside the test from Payne v. Kassab that has been used since 1973, and held that the Commonwealth’s oil and gas rights are “public natural resources” under the ERA and that any revenues derived from the sale of those resources must be held in trust and only expended to conserve and maintain public natural resources.

The Supreme Court’s opinion in PEDF is an important step in the ongoing judicial re-examination of the ERA. However, the impact of the Court’s decision on environmental and land use issues beyond the relatively narrow facts of this case remains unclear.

For more information, read our Administrative Watch.