Thursday, December 19, 2013

Pennsylvania Supreme Court Affirms Unconstitutionality of Parts of Pennsylvania's Act 13

Pennsylvania's Act 13, signed by Governor Thomas Corbett in 2012,  is one of the most sweeping state actions relating to unconventional gas development and hydraulic fracturing.  The Act required municipalities to allow gas development in all zones, even residential ones.  It also updated various state environmental regulations of unconventional gas wells and allowed local governments to place an unconventional gas well fee--essentially a tax--on gas development, which goes into a state fund and is redistributed to local governments for expenditures on roads, affordable housing, environmental projects, and other infrastructure and services.  The commonwealth court in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania found, among other things, that the portion of the Act requiring municipalities to allow unconventional gas development in all zones was unconstitutional--it violated substantive due process by essentially requiring unfair zoning results and forcing arbitrary zoning not in accordance with a comprehensive plan.  Today, a Supreme Court of Pennsylvania majority also found  this portion of the Act unconstitutional because it violated the Environmental Rights Amendment of the Pennsylvania Constitution, which provides that "[t]he people have a right to clean air, pure water, and to the preservation of the natural, scenic, historic and esthetic values of the environment."  (One justice believes that this portion of the Act is unconstitutional because of substantive due process, not the Environmental Rights Amendment.)  The opinion also addresses provisions of the Act that allow the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection to grant waivers from mandatory setbacks of well sites from various resources.

-Hannah Wiseman

December 19, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Call for Abstracts: UW Junior Environmental Law Scholars Annual Workshop

From our friends at the University of Washington.  Several current and former Environmental Law Prof bloggers have participated in this conference, and I think we would all agree that it's well worth the trip.

Call for Abstracts

UW Junior Environmental Law Scholars Annual Workshop

University of Washington School of Law

Seattle, Washington

July 9-11, 2014


The University of Washington is pleased to announce the 3rd Annual UW Young Environmental Law Scholars Workshop.

This collegial two-day workshop features discussion of works-in-progress by early career environmental law scholars: professors with two or fewer years of tenure, pre-tenure professors, visiting assistant professors, or legal fellows.  We invite submissions from the broad fields of environmental, natural resources, and energy law.  Prior workshop participants are welcome to submit new works.

Participating junior scholars will be asked to submit an unpublished work-in-progress approximately one month before the workshop.  Each paper will be circulated to the entire group for review and assigned to one senior scholar and one junior scholar for detailed commentary.

At the workshop, each paper will receive an hour of discussion: a short introduction by the author, followed by detailed comments from the designated junior and senior scholars, and then a more general review by the group.  The overall aims of this process are to promote scholarly discussion and to facilitate rigorous early review for works to be offered for publication in a law journal.


The senior scholars participating in this year’s workshop are:

- Robert T. Anderson - Director, Native American Law Center, University of Washington

- Lisa Heinzerling - John Carroll Research Professor of Law, Georgetown University

- Christine A. Klein - Chesterfield Smith Professor of Law, University of Florida

- John Copeland Nagle - John N. Matthews Professor of Law, University of Notre Dame

- William H. Rodgers - Stimson Bullitt Professor of Environmental Law, University of Washington


To apply, please submit a cover letter, an abstract of no more than 500 words, and a C.V. to [email protected] by March 15, 2014.


All meals will be included.  Participants will be responsible for their travel and lodging costs.

December 17, 2013 | Permalink | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Environmental Law in the Big (and small) Spatial Data Era

Outside the world of law, environmental academics and professionals spend a ton of time analyzing data coded to specific geographic locations.   Most environmental lawyers are at least somewhat aware of this phenomenon; most of us know, for example, that GISs and simulation models have become central to environmental work.  But we still tend to think of spatial analysis as a sideshow to our legal world.  I think that’s a mistake.  These technologies have become so prevalent, and so central to other environmental disciplines, that we really need to understand what they can and can’t do—and, importantly, how they might affect our work.

A few years ago, I began working on a paper designed to explore some of those implications.  It’s now out—finally—in the Utah Law Review, and it attempts to address the implications of spatial analysis for some of the grand old questions of environmental law.  Among other subjects, the paper discusses how technological changes could affect the environmental challenges for which regulation is possible, the extent to which we use planning and environmental trading systems to address those challenges, and the ways we allocate authority. The article also closes with a few words about what spatial analysis might mean for the methodologies of environmental law research.

Interested readers can find the paper here

- Dave Owen

December 4, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)