My November environmental practice column for the Pennsylvania Law Weekly considered the problem of terminating an environmental obligation when conditions change after a time. In the pursuit of “paradise by the dashboard light,” as Meatloaf taught, if I promise to love you until the end of time, I might end up “praying for the end of time so I can end my time with you.” So too with all kinds of agreements to fund operation, maintenance, wastewater treatment, grubbing and mowing, and so forth.
Wyeth Pharmaceuticals v. Borough of West Chester, No. 2116 C.D. 2014 (Pa. Commw. Ct. Nov. 5, 2015), considered such an agreement by what was in 1984 a large industrial water user to fund a municipal sewage treatment plant. By 2005, the industrial facility had been closed and demolished; consequently, it produced no further wastewater. The Commonwealth Court cited a policy against perpetual agreements unless they are explicit, and allowed Wyeth to terminate its obligation. The lesson, though, is to attend to the termination provisions going in, because forever is a long time from now.
Read Environmental Commitments and the Pursuit of Paradise by the Dashboard Light, 38 Pa. L. Weekly 1068 (Nov. 17, 2015), by clicking here.