Clean Air Council

Legal Practice

Over the years, Clean Air Council’s legal team has had the opportunity to represent the organization in a variety of interesting and consequential court cases. The Council’s legal practice ranges from appeals of air permits to pipeline and zoning challenges to state constitutional claims. Below is a sample of some ongoing actions being litigated by our team. If you would like more information on a particular case, click the docket link and if applicable enter the case number.

  • Clean Air Council, et. al. v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P.

The Council has been organizing around Sunoco’s massive Mariner East pipeline project since 2013. This pipeline, if built, would span across Pensylvania bridging the gap between Ohio and Delaware. In spring 2015, Sunoco began to take landowners to court to seize their property through eminent domain so that it could build its Mariner East 2 (and 3) pipelines. The Council teamed up with some of its members – who are also impacted landowners in Delaware County – and filed a lawsuit in late August 2015 seeking injunctive and declaratory relief to prevent Sunoco from taking people’s land to build its pipelines. We also sought a court declaration that Sunoco does not have that right. As of March 2017, the case was pending before the Court of Common Pleas of Philadelphia County.
Enter Case ID: 150803484

  • Clean Air Council v. Sunoco Partners Marketing & Terminals, L.P., et. al.

This is another action related to Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline project. Sunoco needs many permits as part of its effort to build the pipelines, including air permits for equipment it is installing – and planning to install – at its international export terminal in Marcus Hook, Pennsylvania. This equipment would process, store, and convey the natural gas liquids that the pipeline would carry. Sunoco applied for an air permit plan approval from DEP for installation of some of that equipment. This was the latest in a series of plan approval applications for this type of equipment. The Council commented on the proposed plan approval and engaged in discussions with DEP but, despite DEP admitting flaws in the issued plan approval permit, it did not agree to withdraw the permit. In April 2016, the Council appealed the plan approval. The case is currently pending before the Environmental Hearing Board and discovery is ongoing.

  • Clean Air Council, et. al. v. Sunoco Pipeline, L.P. and DEP

This is another action brought by the Council in opposition to Sunoco’s Mariner East pipeline project. On February 13, 2017, DEP approved and issued a total of twenty permits that would allow Sunoco to begin construction on its Mariner East 2 pipeline.  This pipeline would disturb over 3,000 acres of land and hundreds of streams and wetlands, cutting a destructive path across the entire state. These permits, which govern earthmoving activities and activities that take place in wetlands, lakes, and streams, were issued despite myriad flaws and despite Sunoco’s failure to redress deficiencies identified in the permit applications by DEP in 2015. The Council immediately filed an appeal with the Environmental Hearing Board challenging the issuance of the permits and petitioning to halt all construction of the pipeline while the litigation is pending.

  • Clean Air Council, et. al. v. Middlesex Township Zoning Hearing Board, et. al.

In 2014, Middlesex Township, located in Butler County, amended its local zoning ordinance to allow industrial oil and gas drilling to take place within its boundaries, despite being zoned strictly for residential/agricultural use. This change allowed Rex Energy, an oil and natural gas company, to apply to the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) for permits to drill six fracking wells on a property located within a half-mile of a local school district. The air pollution associated with these drilling and fracking activities – operating in such close proximity to several schools – could adversely impact the health of thousands of children. The Council, in partnership with the Delaware Riverkeeper Network (DRN), initiated legal action to challenge the zoning ordinance amendment on statutory and state constitutional grounds and to stop Rex from drilling. The case is currently pending before the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania.

  • Clean Air Council, et. al. v. R.E. Gas Development, LLC, et. al.

This is a related case initiated by the Council after DEP issued the six permits to Rex to begin drilling its fracking wells in Middlesex Township. The Council, again in partnership with DRN, challenged the adequacy of DEP’s permit review process on statutory grounds and argued that permitting this activity directly violates Pennsylvanians Environmental Rights Amendment, Pa. Const., article. I, §27. The Council’s attorneys presented our case in a trial before the Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) in December 2016. The parties will soon submit post-hearing briefs and a final adjudication from the EHB is expected in late spring.


  • Clean Air Council, et. al. v. Shell Chemical Appalachia, et. al.

The Council has been involved in Shell’s proposed cracker facility (“cracker” is an industry term for a plant that takes oil and gas and breaks it into smaller molecules to be used in plastics manufacturing) since it was first announced. The Council prepared and distributed a technical and well-received Health Impact Assessment, evaluating the facility and offering recommendations. When Shell applied for its operating permit, the Council submitted comments recommending, inter alia, that better monitoring protocols be mandated. When such conditions were not included in the final permit, the Council appealed. As of March 2017, the case is currently pending before the Environmental Hearing Board and discovery is ongoing.



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