Insight

Turning Down the Heat

What sort of legal and legislative action is necessary to help put Pennsylvania on the front lines of the battle against climate change?

Depleting Natural Resources in Pennsylvania
JZ

Janice Zhou

March 27, 2020 08:00 AM

It's warm out when it ought to be cold. It’s snowing in springtime. Odd weather variances and seemingly worse natural disasters in recent years have kept two weighty topics—climate change and the depletion of natural resources—front and center.

From 2000 to 2012, the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded that there were 24 cases of “failure to prevent migrations [of natural gas and potentially other substances] to fresh groundwater,” in an assessment and risk analysis by Ingraffea et al. The state likewise confirmed more than 100 instances of water-well contamination from oil-and-gas activities since 2005, according to a 2014 piece from the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States.

The exploitation of natural resources can have severe environmental consequences: depletion of the ozone layer, increased incidence of natural disasters, species extinction, and much more. Here, two Best Lawyers–recognized attorneys share their thoughts on the potentially momentous implications.

David Mandelbaum
Shareholder at Greenberg Traurig, LLP, Philadelphia
Recognized for Environmental Law Since 2006

Is there any legislation that could help fix problems related to resource depletion?

Our [PA] Supreme Court has held that any land-use regulation that entirely excludes any lawful land use from a municipality—typically a small one—is exclusionary and violates our due-process clause. The curative amendment remedy makes restrictive regulation difficult. The courts have not yet fleshed out what implications our newly reinvigorated Environmental Rights Amendment means for this issue. That being said, almost every acre of Pennsylvania has been farmed and timbered for at least one season since European settlement, so there are no virgin natural resources [here].

How can attorneys help address these issues?

If we want efficient and effective economy-wide [greenhouse-gas] regulation, we probably need better statutory authority—and on a national level. Lawyers can draft that, but it would require a political consensus that isn’t there. Note that there is a pending petition [with] the Environmental Quality Board contending that the Environmental Rights Amendment constitutionally requires climate-change mitigation rulemaking.

Joseph K. Reinhart
Shareholder at Bast Calland, Pittsburgh
Recognized for Environmental Law Since 2003

Much state environmental law is based on federal statutes. How can environmental-law attorneys help?

Environmental lawyers can be instrumental in sustaining rural communities and protecting natural resources by helping landowners and businesses understand the complex and interrelated laws and regulations governing so many aspects of economic development. Many municipalities in Pennsylvania have passed ordinances designed to protect residents in rural areas from environmental harm associated with natural resource development. Sorting out the laws and ordinances applicable to these activities, and determining which governmental authority has jurisdiction over them, are tasks well-suited to attorneys trained in environmental law.

Many states have developed their own climate-change plans. Do you think Pennsylvania will do that?

In 2018, Governor Tom Wolf issued an executive order establishing a Climate Action Plan for the commonwealth. The plan seeks to achieve, by 2025, a 26 percent reduction in greenhouse-gas emissions from 2005 levels. It also contemplates the development of a cap-and-trade program to limit carbon-dioxide emissions.

Will the passage of certain laws be necessary?

Wolf’s executive order requiring the development of a cap-and-trade program has been met by stiff resistance from parties concerned about the costs and potential adverse economic consequences associated with a carbon tax. In December 2019, members of the Pennsylvania House and Senate referred bipartisan companion bills, known as the Pennsylvania Carbon Dioxide Cap and Trade Authorization Act, to their respective environmental and energy committees. Regardless of the outcome, any laws dealing with a cap-and-trade program in Pennsylvania are likely to receive considerable attention and require input from environmental lawyers representing all interested parties.

Related Articles

ESG Changing Texas’ Legal Landscape


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers breaks down the growing industry trend of ESG standards and how its altering the field of law in the state of Texas.

Texas’ Ever Changing Legal Landscape

Pennsylvania’s Best Lawyers 2022


by Best Lawyers

Our Pennsylvania’s Best Lawyers 2022 digital publication features top-ranked legal talent in Pennsylvania.

Pennsylvania’s Best Lawyers 2022

New York In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

Courts in the New York area have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases.

New York In the Law

Southern California in the Law


by Gregory Sirico

Courts in Southern California have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases in Southern California.

Southern California in the Law

South Florida In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

Courts in South Florida have continued to hear cases, many of them years-long battles that are still ongoing. Here is a look at some recent court cases in South Florida.

South Florida In the Law

Northern California In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We explore three legal cases in Northern California.

Northern California In the Law

Tampa In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We explore three legal cases in Tampa.

Tampa In the Law

Midwest In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We examine five court cases that are ongoing in Illinois, Michigan, Ohio, Minnesota and Indiana.

A Look at Court Cases in the Midwest

Washington, D.C. In the Law


by Gregory Sirico

We explore three legal cases in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. In the Law

A Climate Duty


by Lara Douvartzidis and Samantha Daly

Converging trends in Australia and the Netherlands: reasonable foreseeability in climate change law and other novel developments.

Climate Change Law in Australia

Elections Dustup


by Rachel Shrewsbury

Two election security bills working their way through the Texas House and Senate are creating divisions within the Texas GOP and meeting stiff opposition from many who view them as voter suppression.

Elections Dustup

Dress Codes


by Janice Zhou

A controversial bill banning religious symbols leaves Québec divided.

Religious Symbols

Legislation Under Fire


by Janice Zhou

The legal battle for gun regulation in Florida moves forward.

Gun shots on target practice

No Place Like Home


by Janice Zhou

The housing crisis across the country has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, California being no exception. However, state laws have recently been passed to address the problem.

Two people in a window

Restore the Vote


by Janice Zhou

Voting rights for felons is shifting. Florida allows ex-felons to register to vote after they have completed their entire sentence, including incarceration, probation, and parole.

Polling station for voting

Is New Always Better?


by Janice Zhou

The rapid rise of gentrification in major cities leaves residents wondering.

Road facing bridge at sunset

Trending Articles

The Real Camille: An Interview with Johnny Depp’s Lawyer Camille Vasquez


by Rebecca Blackwell

Camille Vasquez, a young lawyer at Brown Rudnick, sat down with Best Lawyers CEO Phillip Greer to talk about her distinguished career, recently being named partner and what comes next for her.

Camille Vasquez in office

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers® in the United States


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 28th Edition of The Best Lawyers in America® and in the 2nd Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America for 2022.

2022 Best Lawyers Listings for United States

Famous Songs Unprotected by Copyright Could Mean Royalties for Some


by Michael B. Fein

A guide to navigating copyright claims on famous songs.

Can I Sing "Happy Birthday" in Public?

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch – The Future of Legal Talent Looks Bright


by Justin Smulison

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch is launching its second edition in the United States, and after talking with both a company leader and esteemed lawyers on the list, the importance of this prestigious list is evident.

Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in America 2022

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard: The Best Lawyers Honorees Behind the Litigation


by Gregory Sirico

Best Lawyers takes a look at the recognized legal talent representing Johnny Depp and Amber Heard in their ongoing defamation trial.

Lawyers for Johnny Depp and Amber Heard

Why Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Developed Its Own Legal Tech


by Best Lawyers

Juan Pablo Matus of Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos, 2019 "Law Firm of the Year" award for Corporate and M&A Law in Chile, discusses his firm's joint venture with Cognitiva in creating Lexnova, a legal AI system.

Cariola Díez Pérez-Cotapos Interview

Choosing a Title Company: What a Seller Should Expect


by Roy D. Oppenheim

When it comes to choosing a title company, how much power exactly does a seller have?

Choosing the Title Company As Seller

Announcing the 2022 "Best Law Firms" Rankings


by Best Lawyers

The 2022 “Best Law Firms” publication includes all “Law Firm of the Year” recipients, national and metro Tier 1 ranked firms and editorial from thought leaders in the legal industry.

The 2022 Best Law Firms Awards

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers listed in the 16th Edition of The Best Lawyers in Canada™ and 1st Edition of Best Lawyers: Ones to Watch in Canada.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers in Canada™

Education by Trial: Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom


by Margo Pierce

The intricacies of complex lawsuits require extensive knowledge of the legal precedent. But they also demand a high level of skill in every discipline needed to succeed at trial, such as analyzing technical reports and deposing expert witnesses.

Cultivating Legal Expertise in the Courtroom

Announcing The Best Lawyers in France™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from France.

Blue, white and red strips

Wage and Overtime Laws for Truck Drivers


by Greg Mansell

For truck drivers nationwide, underpayment and overtime violations are just the beginning of a long list of problems. Below we explore the wages you are entitled to but may not be receiving.

Truck Driver Wage and Overtime Laws in the US

Caffeine Overload and DUI Tests


by Daniel Taylor

While it might come as a surprise, the over-consumption of caffeine could trigger a false positive on a breathalyzer test.

Can Caffeine Cause You to Fail DUI Test?

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australia


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms.

Announcing the 2022 Best Lawyers™ in Australi

Announcing The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom™ 2023


by Best Lawyers

The results include an elite field of top lawyers and firms from the United Kingdom.

The Best Lawyers in The United Kingdom 2023

Georgia Laws Taking Effect in 2022


by Gregory Sirico

Three new pieces of Georgia legislation aim to improve medical bill transparency, lower the sales tax on vehicles and enact further safeguards to protect children in foster care.

New Georgia Laws Enacted in 2022