Clean Air Council and PennEnvironment file motion to join lawsuit to overturn PA plastics preemption law

Media Contacts

Environmental groups seek intervention to join municipalities in seeking to undo General Assembly’s unconstitutional overreach


PHILADELPHIA – PennEnvironment and Clean Air Council filed a motion to intervene on Tuesday in order to seek to overturn the state legislature’s unconstitutional preemption of local laws meant to address single-use plastic waste and litter. The two statewide environmental groups join four Pennsylvania municipalities in this highly publicized lawsuit.

On March 3, 2021 the City of Philadelphia, Borough of West Chester, Borough of Narberth, and Lower Merion Township filed a Petition for Review in the Pennsylvania Commonwealth Court asking the Court to declare that the Pennsylvania General Assembly and the Commonwealth Government violated the state’s constitution in preempting municipalities from enacting or enforcing anti-plastic legislation. The Docket # is 42 MD 2021. 

“Pennsylvania municipalities must be empowered to address issues of plastic pollution when the state legislature won’t,” said PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur. “The General Assembly’s use of a secretive and unconstitutional backroom process to ramrod through a controversial anti-environmental policy that strips control away from local officials must be overturned.”

Clean Air Council attorneys filed this motion in the Commonwealth Court of Pennsylvania for PennEnvironment and Clean Air Council and on behalf of their citizen members, all of whom are harmed by the legislature’s action. 

“Every Pennsylvania community is different and should have the ability to develop its own policies to reflect the unique needs, views, and values of the people living there.” said Clean Air Council Executive Director and Chief Counsel Joe Minott. “Local residents and local leaders know how to solve local problems—because they see them up close. When they work together to come up with a solution, the state should help them improve it—not strike it down just to cater to special interests’ demands. We should be listening to communities, not corporations.”

The filing argues that the General Assembly’s process for passing the preemption statute violates at least three section of Pennsylvania’s constitution, including the Environmental Rights Amendment (Article 1, Section 27), the “Single Subject” provision (Article 3, Section 3), and “altering a bill to change its original purpose” provision (Article 3, Section 1). 

The municipalities’ lawsuit, combined with today’s filing by Clean Air Council and PennEnvironment, comes as mounting data shows that plastic pollution has significant negative effects on the environment and public health.  

Coincidentally, on the same day as the Municipalities filed their lawsuit, PennEnvironment released a detailed report titled “Microplastics in PA: A survey of waterways.”  This study was conducted in order to evaluate the presence of microplastics in Pennsylvania’s waterways. The results showed that microplastics were present in every water body sampled.  


PennEnvironment is dedicated to protecting our air, water and open spaces. We investigate problems, craft solutions, educate the public and decision-makers, and help the public make their voices heard in local, state and national debates over the quality of our environment and our lives. For more information, visit

Clean Air Council is a member-supported, non-profit environmental organization dedicated to protecting everyone’s right to a healthy environment. The Council is headquartered in Philadelphia and works through public education, community advocacy, and government oversight to ensure enforcement of environmental laws. For more information, please visit

staff | TPIN

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