Articles Posted in Supreme Court of Pennsylvania

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In February 2012, the Pennsylvania General Assembly passed Act 13, a "sweeping" law regulating the oil and gas industry, which, inter alia, repealed parts of the existing Oil and Gas Act of 1984 codified in Title 58 of the Pennsylvania Consolidated Statutes, and created six new chapters therein. The specific provisions of two of which, Chapters 32 and 33, were at issue in this appeal. The questions raised in this appeal involved Sections 3218.1, 3222.1, and 3241 of Chapter 32, and Sections 3305 through 3309 of Chapter 33. This appeal was consolidated from the decision of the Commonwealth Court following the Supreme Court's remand to that court to resolve open issues pursuant to a mandate in "Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania," (83 A.3d 901 (2013) (“Robinson II”)). In that case, the Supreme Court struck the entirety of Sections 3215(b), 3215(d), 3303, and 3304 of Act 13 of Feb. 14, 2012, P.L. 87 (“Act 13”), as violative of the Pennsylvania Constitution, and the Court enjoined the application and enforcement of Section 3215(c) and (e) and Sections 3305 through 3309, to the extent that they implemented or enforced the provisions of Act 13 which was invalidated. The Supreme Court affirmed the portion of the order the Commonwealth Court issued on remand, “Robinson III”, holding that Sections 3305 through 3309 were not severable from Sections 3303 and 3304, and the Court also upheld its conclusion that the passage of Act 13 did not violate Article III, Section 3 of the Pennsylvania Constitution (the “single subject rule”). However, because the Supreme Court concluded that Sections 3218.1, 3222.1(b)(10) and 3222.1(b)(11) contravened Article III, Section 32 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, due to the Court's determination that they constituted special legislation, the Court reversed the Commonwealth Court’s order upholding these sections, and enjoined their further application and enforcement. In that regard, the Supreme Court stayed its mandate with respect to Section 3218.1 for 180 days in order to give the General Assembly sufficient time to enact remedial legislation. Further, because the Court determined that Section 3241 was unconstitutional on its face, it reversed the Commonwealth Court’s order and directed this provision be stricken as well, and enjoined from further application and enforcement. View "Robinson Twp, et al v. Public Utility Commission" on Justia Law

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In this appeal, the issue presented for the Pennsylvania Supreme Court's review was whether the Superior Court properly applied the doctrine of estoppel by deed to conclude that an oil and gas lease between Appellee, Anadarko E. & P. Co., L.P. and Appellants, Leo and Sandra Shedden, covered the oil and gas rights to 100% of the property identified in the lease, notwithstanding the fact that, unbeknownst to them, Appellants owned only a one-half interest in the oil and gas rights to the property at the time the lease was executed, and, consequently, received a bonus payment only for the oil and gas rights they actually owned. Upon review, the Supreme Court held that the Superior Court properly affirmed the trial court's grant of summary judgment in favor of Anadarko based on estoppel by deed. View "Shedden v. Anadarko E&P Co." on Justia Law

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Through Pennsylvania’s Land Recycling and Environmental Remediation Standards Act, ("Act 2"), the General Assembly created a scheme for establishing “cleanup standards” applicable to voluntary efforts to remediate environmental contamination for which a person or entity may bear legal responsibility. Appellant EQT Production Company (“EPC”), owned and operated natural gas wells in the Commonwealth. In May 2012, the company notified Appellee, the Department of Environmental Protection (the “Department” or “DEP”), that it had discovered leaks in one of its subsurface impoundments containing water that had been contaminated during hydraulic fracturing operations. Subsequently, EPC cleared the site of impaired water and sludge and commenced a formal cleanup process pursuant to Act 2. In May 2014, the agency tendered to EPC a proposed “Consent Assessment of Civil Penalty,” seeking to settle the penalty question via a payment demand of $1,270,871, subsuming approximately $900,000 attending asserted ongoing violations. EPC disputed the Department’s assessment, maintaining that: penalties could not exceed those accruing during the time period in which contaminants actually were discharged from the company’s impoundment; all such actual discharges ended in June 2012; and the Act 2 regime controlled the extent of the essential remediation efforts. The issue this case presented for the Supreme Court's review centered on whether ECT had the right to immediately seek a judicial declaration that the DEP's interpretation of the Act was erroneous. The Court held that the impact of the Department’s threat of multi-million dollar assessments against EPC was sufficiently direct, immediate, and substantial to create a case or controversy justifying pre-enforcement judicial review via a declaratory judgment proceeding, and that exhaustion of administrative remedies relative to the issues of statutory interpretation that the company has presented was unnecessary. View "EQT Production Co. v. DEP" on Justia Law