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National Wood Preservers, Inc. v. Department of Envtl. Resources

Citation: 10 ELR 20724
No. Nos. 66 et al., 414 A.2d 37/14 ERC 1487/489 Pa. 221, (Pa., 04/24/1980)

The Pennsylvania Supreme Court upholds the constitutionality of the state Clean Streams Law, which requires landowners to remedy sources of water pollution emanating from their land. After first rejecting appellants' argument that the statute was intended to apply only to pollution from mining activities, the court sustains the constitutionality of the measure under a traditional police power analysis. First, the statutory objective of environmental protection has long been accepted as legitimate by state and federal courts and indeed is recognized in art. I, § 27 of the state constitution. Given the breadth of the police power and the presumption of validity with which legislative enactments are clothed, appellants' argument to the contrary is without merit. Second, the imposition upon the landowner of a duty to abate pollution is a reasonable means of achieving the statutory objective. Third, the statutory scheme is not unduly oppressive upon individual landowners even though it may impose cleanup obligations upon landowners who in fact may not have caused the pollution. A concurring opinion disagrees with the latter ruling, and suggests a two-part test, which would require a showing that the landowner was in some way responsible for the pollution.

Counsel for Appellants National Wood Preservers et al.
Stephen R. Bolden, Daniel B. Michie Jr.
Fell, Spalding, Goff & Rubin
1800 Penn Mutual Tower, 510 Walnut St., Philadelphia PA 19106
(215) 925-8300

J. Stokes Adams III, Alan V. Vaskas
Hepburn, Ross, Willcox & Putnam
2000 Two Penn Center Plaza, Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 568-7500

Leonard Dubin
Blank, Rome, Klaus & Comisky
11th Fl., Four Penn Center Plaza, Philadelphia PA 19102
(215) 569-3700

Counsel for Appellant Commonwealth of Pennsylvania
Dennis M. Coyne, Ass't Attorney General
Department of Justice
16th Fl., Strawberry Square, Harrisburg PA 17101
(717) 787-3391

Before EAGEN, C.J., and O'BRIEN, ROBERTS, LARSEN and FLAHERTY, JJ.

NIX, J., did not participate in the consideration or decision of this case.