Appeal from the Order of the Environmental Hearing Board in case of In the Matter of: John T. Ryan v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources, Docket No. 75-183-D.
Ernest P. DeHaas, with him Coldren & Coldren, for appellant.
Howard J. Wein, Assistant Attorney General, for appellee.
President Judge Bowman and Judges Crumlish, Jr., Kramer, Wilkinson, Jr., Mencer, Rogers and Blatt. Opinion by Judge Mencer.
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 181]
The sole issue in this case is whether the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (DER) has the power to order John T. Ryan to enter land he previously leased, in order to correct conditions he created during the lease. We hold that DER is so empowered.
The facts in this case are not in dispute. From 1964 until January 1975, Ryan leased property in South Union Township, Westmoreland County. The purpose of the lease was to allow Ryan to operate a sanitary landfill on the site. Unfortunately, the best that can be said about this operation is that it was less than sanitary. Not only did Ryan neglect to obtain the authorization required for such operation,*fn1 but he consistently failed to conform his operation to solid waste disposal regulations. Inspections by DER from October 1971 through January 1975 revealed egregious violations of numerous rules and regulations dealing with water pollution, health hazards, and land protection. Apparently, the waste material was
[ 30 Pa. Commw. Page 182]
seldom covered, much to the delight of a large rodent and fly population which infested the site. In addition, leachate, a liquid waste generated from the contact of either groundwater or precipitation with refuse containing certain soluble material generated from the organic wastes, oozed from the landfill.
In January 1975, Ryan's lease terminated, and he ceased operating the landfill. Thereafter, inspections by DER revealed that the condition of the site had not improved. The landfill remained partially uncovered and largely unvegetated. Moreover, some of the leachate which continued to seep from the landfill was entering the groundwater.
On July 16, 1975, the DER issued the order which is in issue here. It directed Ryan, inter alia, to implement a rodent- and vector-control program at the site, to reshape the existing uncovered slope, to compact, cover, and revegetate the landfill, and to construct and manage a surface-water diversion system. Ryan appealed from this order on the basis of a fact previously unknown to DER: that Ryan was not the owner of the property in question. Ryan also averred that while he had leased the tract, his lease had terminated and he had been prevented from entering the property. DER subsequently entered into a consent order with the owner of the property, who agreed to allow Ryan to enter the land to comply with the Solid Waste Management Act and The Clean Streams Law.*fn2
The Environmental Hearing Board (Board), which entertained Ryan's appeal, rejected Ryan's contentions that DER was without power to issue its order because he was neither an owner nor an occupier of the land. The Board upheld DER's power ...