Statement: PA cities’ lawsuit to undo General Assembly’s preemption crucial to addressing plastic pollution

Media Contacts

Municipalities must be empowered to address pollution issues when legislature won’t


PHILADELPHIA – Philadelphia joined with the municipalities of Lower Merion, Narberth (Montgomery County) and West Chester (Chester County) to file a lawsuit Wednesday against Pennsylvania’s General Assembly. The suit claims the legislature unconstitutionally enacted a preemption law that strips the ability of local communities and officials across the commonwealth to implement ordinances addressing waste and litter from single-use plastics. 

This action comes as mounting data shows that plastic pollution has significant negative effects on our health and environment. Notably, a report released this week by PennEnvironment Research & Policy Center found microplastic contamination existed in 100 percent of water samples taken from more than 50 of Pennsylvania’s most popular rivers, lakes and streams

PennEnvironment Executive Director David Masur issued the following statement:

“When the General Assembly takes illegal steps to implement policies that put the health of Pennsylvania’s environment and residents at risk, it’s crucial that local officials step in and defend the commonwealth’s constitution and public good.

“Plastic pollution is dangerous to our health and planet and it’s becoming more prevalent by the day. It would be unconscionable to do anything short of reining in waste from single-use plastics as quickly as possible.

“This is especially true when the legislature outrageously uses a secretive, illegal, backroom process to ramrod through a controversial policy that strips control away from local communities and puts our environment at risk. This is nothing more than our elected officials doing the dirty work for the plastic industry, and it represents the worst of special interest influence in our political process.

“America has a ‘stuff’ problem. We are encouraged to make, use and discard at the greatest possible speed. And when we’re done we think we believe we’re throwing these things away. Only, there is no ‘away.’ These products litter our communities, turn into air and water pollution at landfills and incinerators, and clog our oceans for generations to come.

“From our highest mountains and deepest oceans to Pennsylvania’s most beloved and visited waterways, the planet is swimming in plastic pollution. Plastic items we often use once for a few minutes and then toss plague our planet for centuries.

“It’s crucial that local communities have access to the successful tools that have worked in cities, counties and states across the nation in order to address plastic waste and move away from a disposable society, and the filing of today’s lawsuit is a critical step in ensuring Pennsylvania’s municipalities have those tools.”

Philadelphia Councilman Mark Squilla issued the following statement at a press conference announcing the lawsuit:

“”I want to thank PennEnvironment, who brought this idea to us so we could look at the ways that we could challenge the commonwealth on this, and we wouldn’t be here without them.” 


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