In Hess v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, No. 1370 C.D. 2013 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Dec. 22, 2014), the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court en banc considered a petition for review of an order of the Public Utility Commission granting approvals for a transmission line crossing the Susquehanna River. The majority opinion mostly addresses reliability and what constitutes public convenience and “necessity.”
Those following the evolution of law under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. Const. art. I, § 27, after Robinson Township v. Pa. Pub. Util. Comm’n, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013), may wish to look at the dissent by Judge Leavitt. The PUC had concluded that it need not engage in a weighing of environmental impacts under the Environmental Rights Amendment because the line did not qualify as “high voltage” and therefore more rigorous regulations did not apply. Judge Leavitt would have held that Robinson Township calls for a broadened duty of environmental review beyond the limits of the pre-Robinson test described in Payne v. Kassab, 312 A.2d 86 (Pa. Commw. Ct. 1973). Only Judge McGinley joined her.
It appears that the broadest views of what Robinson Township means may not have majority support on the Commonwealth Court. With Chief Justice Castille retiring from the Supreme Court, what Robinson Township does mean remains a little unsettled. As always, stay tuned.