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John C. Dernbach
Professor Dernbach contributed to two recent landmark environmental law cases. In its 2013 decision in Robinson Township v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court held several provisions of Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale statute to be unconstitutional. His scholarship provided much of the basis for the plurality opinion, which applied the previously dormant Environmental Rights Amendment to the Pennsylvania Constitution. Dernbach was also one of four lawyers to co-author an amicus brief to the U.S. Supreme Court in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency on behalf of 18 prominent climate scientists, including two Nobel laureates. In 2007, the Supreme Court held that that EPA erred by not controlling greenhouse gas emissions from motor vehicles. The majority opinion reflects the science described in the brief, and the dissenting opinions do not contradict it. This case provides the foundation for much federal regulation of greenhouse gases.
In two stints totaling near 15 years, he worked at the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Resources (now the Department of Environmental Protection). During this time, he had a major role in drafting comprehensive and nationally recognized reforms to Pennsylvania’s mining and waste programs. He was the primary drafter of Pennsylvania’s recycling legislation, under which more than two million tons of recyclable material are diverted from landfills each year. He was also a primary drafter of comprehensive regulations for municipal waste and residual waste (industrial waste that is not legally hazardous). More recently, he directed the Department’s policy office. There, he was responsible for developing and coordinating policy and regulatory initiatives for the Department; and for advising the secretary on land use, energy, watershed protection, performance-based decision making, and other issues.