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3.12.03

Sewage Sludge In Pennsylvania

As an update to the story two posts ago, it looks like the Pennsylvania Supreme Court has made an inconclusive ruling on the local sovereignty issue with respect to sewage sludge:

Sludge Ruling Leaves All Sides In A Muddle

Last week, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled in a case involving a township that wanted to limit the spreading of sludge on farmland. A New Jersey waste company sued the township, saying Pennsylvania state law preempts local ones.

... Three of the Supreme Court justices said the township may ban sludge application. Three justices said state law overrules local sewage ordinances. And one said the sludge company should not have been allowed to sue in the first place.

So, who won?

Environmental groups are calling the ruling a victory, saying it gives townships the power to oversee their own sludge rules. The state Department of Environmental Protection says just the opposite, reading the ruling as an affirmation of the state's preemptive power.


It looks to me like the township won this particular case, but that the ruling is inconclusive, or even pro-state, in terms of setting a precedent. I would imagine they'll have to hear another case on the same issue, and Justice Sandra Newman will have to take a stand on the sludge issue. The Times-News, on the other hand, is spinning the decision as a straight-up victory for anti-sludge forces in its news pages.

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