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Scanlon v. Commonwealth, Dep't of Transp.

Citation: 14 ELR 20146
No. Nos. 4, 5 M.D. Appeal 1983, 467 A.2d 1108/19 ERC 2127/502 Pa. 577, (Pa., 10/26/1983)

The court holds invalid and enjoins the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (Penndot) from complying with a 1978 federal court consent decree requiring Penndot to establish an annual automobile emission control inspection and maintenance (I/M) program in two urban areas of Pennsylvania. The court rules that the consent decree is void because Penndot did not have legislative authority in 1978 to carry out an annual I/M program. Although the statute in effect in 1978 required vehicle owners to submit to inspections and authorized Penndot to conduct semiannual vehicle inspections, the court rules that the earlier repeal of a statute authorizing emission control inspections required by the Clean Air Act evinced a legislative intent to deny Penndot the authority to establish an I/M program.

The court holds that 1983 legislation allowing I/M programs if necessary to avoid a loss of federal funds and if required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) or a federal court decree does not save the 1978 consent decree. The exception applies only to valid court decrees, and the 1978 decree was invalid, being beyond Penndot's authority. The 1983 legislation cannot validate the 1978 consent decree by granting Penndot authority retroactively.

Justice Roberts, dissenting, argues that Penndot had statutory authority to enter into and implement the consent decree.

Justice Zappala, dissenting, argues that Penndot's authority is not properly at issue because the commonwealth was a party to the suits settled by the consent decree and therefore is bound by the decree. Furthermore, the justice finds authority for Penndot to conduct inspections in statutory language that prohibits alterations of emission control systems and prohibits the use of vehicles with altered systems until they are reinspected at official inspection stations. The justice also argues that even if the decree is invalid, the 1983 legislation allows the implementation of the inspection program because it is required by EPA.

Counsel for Appellants
Michael F. McCarthy, Chief Counsel
Office of the Senate Democratic Floor Leader
Senate P.O., Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 787-3736

Joseph W. Marshall III
Mid-Atlantic Legal Foundation
1521 Locust St., Suite 600, Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 545-1913

Counsel for Appellees
Alan C. Warshaw
Office of the Attorney General
16th Floor, Strawberry Sq., Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 783-1471

John M. Hrubovcak, Ass't Attorney General
Department of Transportation
Room 511, Transp. & Safety Bldg., Harrisburg PA 17120
(717) 783-1323

Before ROBERTS, C.J., LARSEN, FLAHERTY, McDERMOTT and ZAPPALLA, JJ.