Hangley Aronchick attorneys Steve Miano, Rob Wiygul and Pete Keays secured a precedential decision from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit keeping a fracking ban enacted by the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) intact.

Hangley Aronchick represented the Democratic Pennsylvania State Senators and Bucks and Montgomery counties (“counties”) who intervened in Yaw v. Delaware River Basin Commission. The suit, brought by several Republican State Senators, the State Senate Republican Caucus, and four municipalities sought to overturn the DRBC ban on fracking in the Delaware River Basin. The plaintiffs-appellants claimed that the DRBC does not have the authority to enact the ban, and that the ban constitutes a taking under the US Constitution. The Republican Senators further claimed that the DRBC’s action to ban fracking usurps their legislative authority.

In the District Court proceedings, Hangley Aronchick filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit, arguing that, among other defects, the plaintiffs lacked standing to assert their claims.  Last year, the District Court agreed and granted the motion to dismiss, writing that the dispute “is primarily partisan and is best resolved through the political process.”  The plaintiffs then appealed to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit.

On March 31, 2022, after the parties filed their appellate briefs, Rob Wiygul presented an oral argument to the Court of Appeals on behalf of Hangley Aronchick’s clients. On September 16, the Court agreed that the case must be dismissed, finding that “the state senators and Republican Caucus lack standing because the legislative injuries they allege affect the state legislature as a whole.” The judges also explained that the four municipalities in the case “lack standing because the economic injuries they allege are ‘conjectural’ and ‘hypothetical’ rather than ‘actual and imminent’.” The judges again found the plaintiffs-appellants did not have standing “as trustees of Pennsylvania’s public natural resources under the Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution because the Commission’s ban on fracking has not cognizably harmed the trust.”

Shareholder Steve Miano, as quoted in Reuters, stated “the court’s decision affirms that the challenge was based on political disagreement that has no place in federal court.” Moreover, Miano stated: “The ERA’s purpose is to conserve Pennsylvania’s environmental resources, not exploit them.”

Read the opinion