Michael J. Macko, Sol., Franklin Tp., Connellsville, Philip T. Warman, Sol., Fayette County, Uniontown, for appellants.
Paul E. Walters, Chairman, Environmental Hearing Bd., Harrisburg, Howard J. Wein, Asst. Atty. Gen., Dept. of Environmental Resources, Pittsburgh, for appellees.
Robert J. Shostak, Bernard Chanin, Philadelphia, for Elwin Farms, Inc.
Thomas L. Wenger, John R. Fenstermacher, Wix, Wenger & Weidner, Harrisburg, amicus curiae for Pennsylvania State Ass'n of Tp. Sup'rs.
Before O'brien, C.j., and Roberts, Nix, Larsen, Flaherty, McDERMOTT and Hutchinson, JJ.
Editor's Note: This case was originally published at 499 Pa. 162. It is republished to reflect a change in the language of Justice Hutchinson's opinion so as to state concurrence with the majority opinion with the exceptions stated in the concurring opinion.
On May 2, 1980, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources (DER) issued a permit for solid waste disposal and/or processing facility (Permit No. 300728) to Elwins Farms, Incorporated. The permit pertains to a facility called Elwin Farms Industrial Residue Processing Site located in Franklin Township, Fayette County, Pennsylvania. The permit was issued pursuant to an application received by the DER on September 11, 1979. It allowed and authorized the permitee to "stabilize and dispose of (using the 'Stabatrol Process' as described in the approved Facility Design and Operations Plans) neutralized inorganic sludges/residues with a solids content of 12% or greater, by weight, which do not contain (1) organic solvents, (2) sodium salts of arsenate, borate, phosphate, iodate, and/or sulfides, (3) more than 1% oil and grease." The baneful deposits sanctioned by this license are acknowledged to be toxic wastes which perpetually retain their hazardous toxicity.
On May 30, 1980, a timely appeal from the issuance of the permit was filed with the Environmental Hearing Board (EHB) by Franklin Township and Fayette County. The appeal was based, inter alia, on the following: (a) that the DER failed to establish permanent disposal within thirty (30) days as a requirement of the permit; (b) that proper consideration was not accorded to the existence of a high pressure gas line which runs across the subject property; (c) that the applicant furnished false, misleading, and fraudulent information in its application for a permit; (d) that no provisions for accidental spillage of large quantities of waste were provided; (e) that no consideration was given to the problem of transportation of the waste materials to and from the site; (f) that neither the applicant nor the owner of the land possess the mineral rights creating the possibility
of future mining operations beneath the surface; (g) that there is no method to insure that unauthorized materials will not be deposited at the site; (h) that there are several springs and seeps on the property which could become contaminated; (i) that the "stabatrol process" is not an established proven method; (j) that the land on which the facility is to be operated is not zoned for the activity proposed; (k) that the DER failed to notify the township and the county of the application for a permit and breached its duty to cooperate with the local government units in discharging its duties under the Solid Waste Management Act.*fn1
On motion of the permitee, Elwin Farms, Inc., the EHB dismissed the appeal on the basis that the township and the county lack standing to challenge the permit's issue. The Commonwealth Court, relying on its opinions in Susquehanna County v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, Department of Environmental Resources, 58 Pa. Commw. 381, 427 A.2d 1266 (1981) and Strasburg Associates v. Newlin Township, 52 Pa. Commw. 514, 415 A.2d 1014 (1980), affirmed the Order of the EHB dismissing the appeal for lack of standing on the part of the appellants. Upon petition, we granted allocatur.
The question of standing is rooted in the notion that for a party to maintain a challenge to an official order or action, he must be aggrieved in that his rights have been invaded or infringed. This principle was thoroughly considered in Wm. Penn Parking Garage v. City of Pittsburgh, 464 Pa. 168, 346 A.2d 269 (1975) where this court confirmed that to have standing, a party must (a) have a substantial interest in the subject-matter of the litigation; (b) the interest must be direct; and (c) the interest must be immediate and not a remote consequence.
In Wm. Penn Parking Garage, supra, 464 Pa. 191-192-193, 346 A.2d 269, 280-281, this Court stated:
"'[The party] must have a direct interest in the subject-matter of the particular litigation, otherwise he can have
no standing to appeal. And not only must the party desiring to appeal have a direct interest in the particular question litigated, but his interest must be immediate and pecuniary, and not a remote consequence of the judgment. The interest must also be substantial'. Keystone Raceway Corp. vs. State Harness Racing Commission, 405 Pa. 1, 7-8, 173 A.2d 97, 100 (1961)."
"The core concept, of course, is that a person who is not adversely affected in any way by the matter he seeks to challenge is not 'aggrieved' thereby and has no standing to obtain a judicial resolution of his challenge. In particular, it is not sufficient for the person claiming to be "aggrieved" to assert the common interest of all citizens in procuring obedience to the law."
"It is the latter principle which lies behind the traditional formulation's requirement that the would-be "aggrieved" party must have an interest which is "pecuniary" and "substantial". Thus, for example, it is clear that some interests will suffice to confer standing even though they are neither pecuniary nor readily translatable into pecuniary terms."
On the federal level, where review of federal agency action is sought, the standing requirement has been broadened to include persons who can show "that the challenged action had caused them "injury in fact" and where the alleged injury was to an interest 'arguably within the zone of interests to be protected or regulated' by the statutes that the agency was claimed to have violated." Sierra Club v. Morton, 405 U.S. 727, 92 S.Ct. 1361, 31 L.Ed.2d 636 (1972); Also see: U.S. v. Students Challenging Regulating Agency Procedures, 412 U.S. 669, 93 S.Ct. 2405, 37 L.Ed.2d 254 (1973).
The appellants, Franklin Township and Fayette County are legal persons in the sense that they exist as legal entities possessed of rights and responsibilities including the right and sometimes the duty to seek judicial or other legal relief. However, a township and a county are ...