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Rights to Obtain Damages Under Pennsylvania Environmental Citizen Suit Provisions After Centolanza and Redland Soccer Club

November 1998

Citation: ELR 10653

Author: Robert B. McKinstry, Jr.

Editors' Summary: According to prevailing precedent, the citizen suit provisions of environmental statutes do not entitle plaintiffs to a private right-of-action for damages. However, two recent decisions by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court appear to expand the remedies available under the citizen suit provisions of two state environmental statutes to include private causes-of-action. This Article examines the two decisions and the subsequent ambiguous case law applying the decisions. It then argues that the reasoning employed to extend private remedies under the two statutes can be applied to the citizen suit provisions of the majority of Pennsylvania's environmental statutes. Further, the Article asserts that private causes-of-action for damages under state environmental statutes offer potential plaintiffs additional substantive and procedural advantages including broad coverage, presumptions of liability, feeshifting provisions, and a lack of statutes of limitations. Although many unresolved questions remain as to the interplay between a state environmental statute's private right-of-action for damages and other state laws, such as the state brownfields law, the Article concludes that such unresolved questions will only be answered by inevitable future litigation.

Robert B. McKinstry Jr. is the co-partner-in-charge of the environmental practice group of Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll's Philadelphia office. He received his B.A. with honors from Swarthmore College, an M.F.S. from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, and a J.D. from the Yale Law School. Prior to beginning private practice, he served as a law clerk to the Hon. Hames L. Latchum, then Chief Judge of the U.S. District Court for the District of Delaware. Mr. McKinstry is a past president and current board member of the Pennsylvania Resources Council, Inc.

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