My column this month in the Pennsylvania Law Weekly considers natural resource damages and their measurement. NRDs are available under a number of federal programs. To my knowledge, however, Pennsylvania state trustees have only sought to recover NRDs twice.
We have to think about whether that might change. The Supreme Court’s plurality opinion in Robinson Twp. v. Pub. Util. Comm’n, 83 A.3d 901 (Pa. 2013), suggests that Commonwealth agencies must take seriously their responsibility as trustee for public natural resources under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pa. Const. art. I, § 27. Will that require them to seek compensation for releases of hazardous substances that damage those public natural resources under the federal Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act or the Pennsylvania Hazardous Sites Cleanup Act? If so, can that be done in a reasonable way?