The Fifth District Appellate Court affirmed the Village of Caseyville’s approval of a solid waste transfer station despite objections from Roxana Landfill Inc. and Fairmont City.
The appeal came as a petition for review of the order of the Illinois Pollution Control Board, IPCB, affirming Caseyville’s decision to allow the transfer station, which will service St. Clair, Madison and Monroe Counties.
Roxana Landfill Inc. and Fairmont City filed the appeal against the IPCB, Village Board of the Village of Caseyville, the Village of Caseville, Caseyville Transfer Station and the Illinois Board of Trustees.
Justice S. Gene Schwarm delivered the Rule 23 decision of the court on July 25, concluding that the Caseyville Transfer Station LLC, or CTS, met the criteria for siting a solid waste transfer station within the boundaries was not against the manifest weight of the evidence, that Caseyville properly exercised jurisdiction over the proceedings and that the proceedings were “fundamentally fair.”
Justices Judy Cates and James Moore concurred in the decision.
CTS sought local siting approval to develop a municipal solid waste transfer station, wherein waste collected from residences and businesses by conventional collection vehicles would be transferred into transfer trailers for transport to licensed municipal solid waste landfills for final disposal. The company states that it doesn't intend for any waste to be stored at the transfer station.
CTS’s proposed transfer location is located on a five-acre parcel on the southwest corner of the intersection of Bunkum Road and the Harding Ditch, which is within Caseyville’s municipal boundaries. The company seeks development of a 6,000 square foot transfer station building that could accept 300 tons of non-hazardous municipal solid waste per operating day.
CTS expects the waste to primarily come from residents and businesses located in St. Clair County, but some waste is expected to come from residents and businesses in Madison and Monroe Counties.
CTS mailed notice of its intent to file a siting application with Caseyville to owners of property within 250 feet of the site and to members of the General Assembly from the legislative district in which the site was located. Then on Jan. 23, 2014, CTS published the notice in the Belleville News Democrat.
On Feb. 10, 2014, CTS owner John Siemsen delivered the application for siting approval to the Caseyville Village Hall.
CTS explained in its application that the transfer station would decrease transportation costs and extend the useful life of landfill facilities within the service area.
Caseyville held a hearing on the application on May 29, 2014, at the local community center. Two members of the Village Board were present. Roxana Landfill and Fairmont City appeared through counsel as participants and objected to the application.
Citizens also raised concerns over the potential odor resulting from the station, the increase in traffic on Bunkum Road and how it would affect school bus routes.
Both Roxana Landfill and Fairmont City provided expert witnesses at the hearing to show why they thought the transfer station was unnecessary and inconvenient.
Ultimately, Caseyville granted CTS’s application on Aug. 6, 2014.
Roxana Landfill and Fairmont City responded by petitioning the IPCB to review Caseyville’s siting decision. Their petitions were consolidated.
They argued that Caseyville did not have jurisdiction to conduct the hearing because CTS’s filing of the application may not have occurred on the date stated in the prefiling notices, that the procedures used at the hearing were not fundamentally fair and that Caseyville erred in granting CTS’s application for approval.
A hearing was held on Oct. 28, 2014.
On Dec. 18, 2014, the IPCB affirmed Caseyville’s approval, concluding that the petitioners failed to establish that Caseyville lacked jurisdiction, they failed to establish that the procedures were unfair and failed to establish that Caseyville’s determination on any of the challenged criteria was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
The IPCB noted that the proceedings were not entitled to the same procedural protection as more conventional adjudicatory proceedings.
“The IPCB also found no evidence that any member of the public who wished to be present was turned away or denied the opportunity to offer public comment,” the appellate decision states.
“The IPCB noted that the CTS service area did not currently have a municipal solid waste transfer station, that the region had few municipal solid waste transfer stations, and that the proposed transfer station would promote competition, convenience, and efficiency,” it continues.
On Feb. 19, 2015, IPCB denied the petitioners post-judgment motion for reconsideration. Roxana Landfill and Fairmont City appealed on March 23, 2015.
The appeals court agrees with the IPCB’s finding that CTS timely submitted its application, meaning Caseyville had jurisdiction over the matter.
As for “fundamental fairness,” the petitioners argue that Caseyville failed to make CTS’s application available to view on Feb. 10, 2014, Siemsen was not sworn in so the public participants were not provided an opportunity to cross-examine him, the forum for the public hearing was too small to hold the citizens who wanted to engage in the siting process and Caseville accepted untimely post-hearing comments.
The appeals court concludes that the failure to produce copies of the application at an early stage in the proceeding “does not necessarily deprive petitioners of a fundamentally fair process.”
“Neither petitioner has shown that it or any member of the general public was denied access to the application,” the decision states.
In fact,108 days elapsed from the filing date to the public hearing.
Further, Caseyville Mayor Leonard Black opened the hearing to questions or comments when the petitioners declined to question Siemsen.
“Neither petitioner has shown any prejudice as a result of the procedures used at the siting proceedings, and neither made an offer of proof as to what it would have asked Siemsen had he been placed under oath. No limit was placed on their ability to offer evidence, question the applicant, or give comment.
"The petitioners thereby failed to demonstrate that they were prejudiced by the procedures; thus, they failed to meet their burden of establishing that the proceedings were unfair,” the decision states.
The appeals court also concludes that Roxana Landfill failed to present to the IPCB any evidence that Caseyville’s procedures prevented any person who wished to participate in the proceedings from doing so.
“Instead, the Village kept the public hearing open until all who wished to comment had the opportunity to do so,” the decision states.
As for the alleged untimely post-hearing comments, the appeals court agrees with the IPCB that the local authority is not required to reject comments received outside of the 30-day post-hearing time frame.
The petitioners further argue that the IPCB’s decision to affirm Caseyville’s siting approval was against the manifest weight of the evidence.
The appeals court disagrees, stating that “where the evidence is conflicting, this court should not reweigh the evidence or substitute its judgment for that of the agency.”
St. Clair, Madison and Monroe Counties filed a joint amicus curiae brief, as did Canteen Township. Caseyville filed a motion to strike the brief filed by St. Clair, Madison and Monroe Counties. The appeals court affirmed the IPCB’s decision and denied the motion to strike.