Clear Air Council v. Penna. Dep’t of Environmental Protection, 245 A.3d 1207 (Pa. Cmwlth. 2021), allocatur granted Oct. 5, 2021, appeal dockets 73 & 74 MAP 2021

Pennsylvania Supreme Court rules that groups appealing environmental permits may recover legal fees from companies.

A Pennsylvania Supreme Court decision arising from two separate cases has made it significantly easier for public and environmental groups to be reimbursed for legal fees when they successfully appeal environmental permits. The Supreme Court’s decision reverses a lower court ruling that had placed a major barrier to reimbursement of legal costs for environmental lawsuits brought by non-profits and residents. The case involves the Mariner East pipeline construction and an appeal of the Mariner East pipeline environmental permits, which began six years ago over issues with water quality. Sunoco owns the Mariner East, which carries natural gas liquids across Pennsylvania for export in Philadelphia. The construction of the Mariner East was regulated with permits from the state’s Department of Environmental Protection with two types of permits that addressed erosion and sedimentation and wetland and waterways.

Following this recent ruling, members of the public harmed by permits allowing industrial activities, who are able to successfully appeal those permits, are more easily able to get reimbursement of their legal costs. The reimbursement can come not only from the state, who issued the permit, but from the company holding the permits and profiting from the permitted activity. Legal experts, fees, and other costs necessary for these cases can easily reach tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars, and the cases can go on for years or even decades, making appeals like this out of reach for most, absent the ability to recoup costs. 


Case Law Alerts, 2nd Quarter, April 2023 is prepared by Marshall Dennehey to provide information on recent developments of interest to our readers. This publication is not intended to provide legal advice for a specific situation or to create an attorney-client relationship. Copyright © 2023 Marshall Dennehey, all rights reserved. This article may not be reprinted without the express written permission of our firm.