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BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION v. COMMONWEALTH (12/20/71)

decided: December 20, 1971.

BETHLEHEM STEEL CORPORATION
v.
COMMONWEALTH



Appeal from Order of the Court of Common Pleas of Lebanon County in case of Commonwealth of Pennsylvania v. Bethelehem Steel Corporation, 11 Equity 1971.

COUNSEL

Albert J. Tomalis, Jr., with him Metzger, Hafer, Keefer, Thomas & Wood and James R. Koller, and Brent W. Robbins and E. C. Perkins, Of Counsel, for appellant.

Hershel J. Richman, Special Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.

President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer and Rogers. Opinion by President Judge Bowman.

Author: Bowman

[ 3 Pa. Commw. Page 617]

This appeal is one of a number of cases recently decided or currently in litigation, the outcome of which will serve to define the jurisdictional role of the Commonwealth Court in the enforcement of the environmental laws of this State.

Recently, in Commonwealth v. Queen Coal Co. et al., 2 Pa. Commonwealth Ct. 28 (1971), we declared that this Court had concurrent original jurisdiction in equity with the courts of common pleas to enforce the provisions of the Air Pollution Control Act.*fn1

This particular appeal raises the issue of whether the Commonwealth Court is the exclusive court of original jurisdiction in equity to enforce the provisions of The Clean Streams Law.*fn2 It is the Commonwealth's position that our jurisdiction is not exclusive but concurrent with that of the appropriate court of common pleas. Accordingly, it chose to initiate an enforcement action against Bethlehem Steel Corporation in Lebanon County, the situs of the alleged violation of The Clean Streams Law. Bethlehem contends that common pleas courts are without concurrent jurisdiction and exclusive jurisdiction is in the Commonwealth Court. The lower court reached a contrary conclusion, hence this appeal.

[ 3 Pa. Commw. Page 618]

The original jurisdiction of the Commonwealth Court as conferred upon it by Section 401 of the Appellate Court Jurisdiction Act*fn3 includes jurisdiction in "[a]ll civil actions or proceedings by the Commonwealth . . ."*fn4 but then further provides in subsection (b) that such jurisdiction shall be exclusive except as to the very class of action with which we are here concerned ". . . where the jurisdiction of the court shall be concurrent with the several courts of common pleas."

It could not be more plainly expressed that in all actions or proceedings brought by the Commonwealth, this Court enjoys original but not exclusive jurisdiction and shares such jurisdiction with an appropriate court of common pleas having venue in the cause of action asserted.

Notwithstanding this clear language, which we believe to be decisive, appellant structures an argument which it contends requires a conclusion that the exception contained in subsection (b) of Section 401 has been impliedly repealed or does not mean what it clearly says.

Appellant structures its argument upon the statutory history and provisions of the two statutes here involved -- The Clean ...


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