• On-Demand Video

PA’s Powerful Environmental Bill Of Rights (The “ERA”): Implementation Phase

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The plurality opinion in Robinson Township, written by Chief Justice Ron Castille, together with the concurrence of Justice Max Baer, struck down Act 13, in which the Pennsylvania Legislature had overridden local zoning to permit fracking of natural gas throughout the Commonwealth. In so doing the Supreme Court had brought back to life Article I, Section 27 of the Pennsylvania Constitution, Pennsylvania’s powerful Environmental Bill of Rights (the “ERA”), which had been approved by referendum in 1971, four to one.

Notwithstanding the power of the ERA, which affirms the right of all, including future generations, to a livable environment and the duty of all officials, elected and appointed, to act as trustees for the environment -- the ERA remains little known among officials at all levels of government and less so by the public in general.

This program is focused on the implementation of the ERA at various levels of government at a time of climate crisis. There is an urgent need to mitigate greenhouse gas emissions and to provide for adaptation to a hotter climate and unprecedented flooding, especially for underserved communities.


  • The climate crisis; report from Sharm El-Sheikh and Bonn, the United Nations Climate Change Conferences 2022 and 2023
  • The public trust in the era: what does it mean? 
  • Sustainability and legal ethics

Climate crisis, public health and the ERA’s call to action

  • Getting our heads around the climate crisis: thinking the unthinkable
  • The urgency of implementation: what we can do?
  • Public trustees’ duty under the ERA to protect the environment for present and future generations

ERA in the courts

  • A brief history of the ERA from ratification to Payne v Kassab to Robinson Township to the Pennsylvania Environmental Defense Fund cases to Township of Marple Township v PUC and other important cases.

Implementation Phase -- municipal level

  • Municipalities planning code and local land-use regulation following Marple Township v PUC: what is a “constitutionally sound environmental impact review”?
  • Amendments to local land-use legislation: model provisions
  •  Role of municipal officers under the era: proprietary, executive, legislative and administrative 

Mitigation: Strategy to Leverage ERA for Meaningful GHG Reductions

  • Regional greenhouse gas initiative explained
  • Status of current litigation
  • Cap and trade economy wide 
EJ, Equity and Preparing for Climate Fueled Emergencies
  • Best practices
  • Environmental justice for underserved communities
  • Legislation for community engagement in federal projects

Co-sponsored with the PBA Environmental & Energy Law Section. Please visit their website to learn how you can become involved. 

All attendees will receive the course book as a digital download.

Recorded in September 2023.

Practice Areas


Alexander G. Bomstein Esq.
Brendan K. Collins Esq. Ballard Spahr LLP (Phila)
Prof. John C. Dernbach Widener University Commonwealth Law School
Marc D. Jonas Esq. Eastburn and Gray PC (Blue Bell)
David G. Mandelbaum Esq. Greenberg Traurig, LLP (Phila)
Robert B. McKinstry Jr., MSF, Esq.
Jessica R. O'Neill Esq. PennFuture - Citizens for PA's Future (Central)
Michael Sklaroff Esq. PA Bipartisan Climate Initiative, Inc.
Mathy V. Stanislaus Esq. Drexel University
Faculty may vary by location.
PBI reserves the right to substitute speakers at all programs.
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