Hydraulic Fracturing Not Just an Environmental Law Issue
Web Editor - Published: June 11, 2013
Environment2Harrisburg campus Associate Dean for Faculty Research and Development D. Benjamin Barros recently commented on the possible intersection of personal property rights and the effects of hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” for a Bloomberg Businessweek article about six Pennsylvania families who have sued Chevron Corp. and two other energy companies over the practice.

The case, Headley v. Chevron Appalachia LLC, was filed in the Pennsylvania Court of Common Pleas for Allegheny County and provides a different avenue of legal challenge to the practice of fracking. Nuisance suits are based on personal property rights and brought when noise, odors, vibrations, or similar issues infringe on the enjoyment of personal property rights. Unlike environmental impact claims that rely on conclusive scientific evidence proving causation, nuisance claims need only show that the practice has caused substantial and unreasonable damage to a landowner’s use of his or her property.

Efforts to develop deep shale gas reserves have been of particular importance in Pennsylvania because of the Marcellus Shale, and Widener Law’s Harrisburg campus will host a conference on the subject on Friday, September 27th from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. in Room A180 of the Administration Building. Topics explored during the program will look at the practice of hydraulic fracturing and its impact from environmental, community, public health, energy and climate change, and governance perspectives.

“Pennsylvania is the epicenter of a rapidly evolving national effort to develop deep shale gas reserves. This conference will assess what we have learned from Pennsylvania’s experience to date about the role of law in fostering sustainability of shale gas production, how this translates elsewhere, and what needs to be done so that hydraulic fracturing contributes to a sustainable future,” says Environmental Law Center co-director John C. Dernbach, who is serving as symposium chair along with fellow ELC co-director James R. May.