The Pennsylvania Environmental Hearing Board is proposing amendments to its Rules of Practice and Procedure to keep it in step with most county and federal courts in the Commonwealth. At long last, the EHB is adopting a mandatory electronic filing process. In the past, the EHB judges would discuss electronic filing in their initial case management orders. Now, electronic filing of pleadings will be mandatory, unless specific exceptions are given on a case by case basis.
One of the biggest changes is that notices of appeal may now be filed either electronically or by the conventional methods. In the past, notices of appeal were ONLY allowed to be filed by conventional fax or mail.
The EHB was also able to address the issue of electronic filings under seal. There will be a provision allowing documents to be filed under seal, with appropriate indications during the electronic filing. Documents under seal will only be reviewed by Board personnel and the parties to the case.
Electronic filing enlarges the filing time to midnight of the day the filing is due. A confirmation of the filing will follow that will include the date and time the document was received. For purposes of calculating responses to the electronic filing, documents filed after 4:30 will be considered filed on same day as received, but considered served on the next business day.
Other rule changes address responses to dispositive motions. In the past, there was confusion when a party to the EHB proceeding wanted to file a “me too” companion motion, but asserted new facts in its motion. If one party filed a motion and another party wanted to join the motion, there was normally no problem. However, if the joining party wants to file a companion motion that asserts new facts, it was unclear under the old rules whether the response time for the new filing was governed by the original motion’s date of filing or the second motion’s date. The new rule clarifies this and states that parties who wish to file a motion asserting additional facts or legal theories must file within 15 days of the original dispositive motion. Opposing parties then receive an additional 30 days to respond to the second motion.