Pennsylvania DEP’s landfill permitting
regulations upheld by State Supreme Court
Harrisburg, PA— The Pennsylvania
Supreme Court has upheld Department of Environmental Protection
regulations that require landfill operators to show proposed landfill
construction or expansion will generate social and economic benefits
that clearly outweigh potential environmental harms.
“The Supreme Court’s
decision is a huge win for the people of Pennsylvania,”
DEP Secretary Kathleen A. McGinty said. “The harms-benefits
test gives residents a voice in the permitting process and ensures
their communities will garner benefits when they host landfills.”
During the permitting process,
a harms-benefits test looks at the balance between the impact
of a landfill on the surrounding communities and any environmental,
social and economic benefits gained from a proposed facility.
The analysis is the initial screening mechanism for landfill permit
reviews conducted before a full technical review.
The harms-benefits test is described
in regulations for municipal waste landfills and residual waste
landfills. The regulations went into effect in 2000 and 2001,
Two landfill operators, Eagle
Environmental II LP and Tri-County Industries Inc., had argued
that the harms-benefits test was beyond the authority of the Solid
Waste Management Act and the Municipal Waste Management Planning,
Recycling and Waste Reduction Act. They also argued that requiring
benefits to outweigh environmental harms was unconstitutionally
vague and beyond the state’s police powers.
In rejecting these arguments,
the Pennsylvania Supreme Court on October 28, held the following:
•Consideration of economic
and social harms and benefits is within the authority of the
•The concept of a balancing test is common and practiced
by businesses everyday and the concepts of harms and benefits
are easily understood.
•In keeping with the state’s police powers, a determination
of a project’s inherent harms and benefits is reasonably
necessary in order to determine whether a potentially dangerous
project should be granted a permit in a heavily regulated industry.
DEP’s regulations previously
had been upheld by the Environmental Hearing Board and Commonwealth
For more information, visit DEP’s
website http://www.depweb.state.pa.us/, Keyword: “Waste