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Federal Court rebukes Pennsylvania Senators for challenge to Delaware River ban on fracking


The United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit affirmed a lower court decision dismissing a legal challenge to a Delaware River Basin Commission ban on fracking operations within the Delaware River Basin.

The challenge to the ban was filed by State Sens. Gene Yaw and Lisa Baker, the Pennsylvania Senate Republican Caucus, and Damascus Township in Wayne County.

Delaware Riverkeeper Network and Delaware Riverkeeper Maya van Rossum were granted intervenor status as were Pennsylvania Sens. Steve Santarsiero, Carloyn Comitta, Amanda Cappelletti, Maria Collett, Wayne Fontana, Art Haywood, Vince Hughes, John Kane, Tim Kearney, Katie Muth, John Sabatina, Nikil Saval, Judy Schwank, Sharif Street, Tina Tartaglione, and Anthony Williams, as well as both Bucks and Montgomery counties.

The case was heard by a panel of three Circuit Judges, L. Felipe Restrepo, Jane R. Roth, and Julio M. Fuentes. In the precedential opinion authored by Judge Fuentes issued on Sept. 16, the court found that the two state republican legislators, the Pennsylvania State Republican Caucus, and the municipal challengers all lacked standing for failing to demonstrate injuries that meet constitutional muster.

In addition, the judges determined that the fracking ban furthered the purposes of the trust by protecting the natural resources of the Commonwealth as mandated by Article 1 Section 27 of the constitution.

The plaintiffs, who filed their original complaint on Jan. 11, 2021, claimed that the frack ban “palpably and substantially diminished the legislative powers’’ of the two Republican senators, prevented municipalities from economically benefiting from fracking-related activities, and infringed upon their duty to serve as trustees of Pennsylvania’s natural resources under the Environmental Rights Amendment. The judges summarily rejected each argument.

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