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Clinton Landfill, Inc v. Mahomet Valley Water Authority

December 23, 2010

CLINTON LANDFILL, INC.,
PLAINTIFF-APPELLANT,
v.
MAHOMET VALLEY WATER AUTHORITY,
DEFENDANT-APPELLEE.



Appeal from Circuit Court of Piatt County No. 09CH55 Honorable John P. Shonkwiler, Judge Presiding.

The opinion of the court was delivered by: Justice Myerscough

JUSTICE MYERSCOUGH delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

Justices Steigmann and Pope concurred in the judgment and opinion.

OPINION

Plaintiff, Clinton Landfill, Inc., is in the process of seeking the necessary permits for a chemical-waste landfill. In July 2010, plaintiff filed a motion for a preliminary injunction against defendant, Mahomet Valley Water Authority. Plaintiff sought to enjoin defendant from contesting or being involved in plaintiff's permitting process on the basis that defendant lacked the authority to do so. The trial court denied plaintiff's motion for a preliminary injunction.

Plaintiff appeals, arguing it established all the requirements for a preliminary injunction. We disagree and affirm. Plaintiff is essentially seeking to bar defendant, a governmental entity, from expressing an opinion to another governmental entity regarding a matter adverse to its stewardship. This it cannot do.

I. BACKGROUND

Plaintiff operates Clinton Landfill No. 3, which is located in an area known generally as the Mahomet Valley Water District. Defendant is a water authority established pursuant to the Water Authorities Act (Act) (70 ILCS 3715/1 through 27 (West 2008)). The Act provides for the incorporation of a contiguous territory as a water authority. 70 ILCS 3715/1 (West 2008). A water authority is governed by a board of three trustees. 70 ILCS 3715/3 (West 2008). The Act details the powers of the board, which include inspecting wells, regulating the use of water through a period of actual or threatened shortage, supplementing the water supply, and levying and collecting a general tax. See 70 ILCS 3715/6 (West 2008). A water authority also has additional powers with respect to any area acquired for reservoir purposes. 70 ILCS 3715/14 (West 2008). The board may select "an engineer, an attorney[,] and such other employees as they deem expedient who shall serve during the pleasure of the board." 70 ILCS 3715/4 (West 2008).

At some unspecified time, plaintiff began the process of obtaining permits for a chemical-waste landfill through the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency (IEPA) and the United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA). The chemical-waste landfill would be located within a portion of Clinton Landfill No. 3.

In November 2009, defendant held a special meeting, during which the trustees voted to "become involved in contesting [plaintiff's] permit application" and to retain counsel. In December 2009, counsel for defendant asked the IEPA to extend the deadline for the filing of public comment. In January 2010, counsel for defendant made requests, pursuant to the Freedom of Information Act (5 U.S.C. §552 (2006))), upon the IEPA and USEPA. Defendant also hired a consultant to review data and evaluate whether defendant should participate in plaintiff's pending permit process.

In December 2009, plaintiff filed suit against defendant. In March 2010, after the initial complaint was dismissed, plaintiff filed a first amended complaint against defendant, seeking (1) a declaration that defendant lacked the authority to contest plaintiff's permit applications or be involved in plaintiff's permitting process and (2) a preliminary and permanent injunction barring defendant from contesting plaintiff's permit applications or being involved in plaintiff's permitting process. Plaintiff alleged defendant was a non-home-rule entity that possessed only those powers specifically conveyed by the constitution or by statute. Plaintiff alleged neither the constitution nor the Act vested defendant with the power to expend funds to oppose the chemical-waste landfill or engage in the permitting process. (Plaintiff ultimately conceded defendant had the statutory authority to hire attorneys and engineers.)

Although plaintiff had obtained the IEPA permit in January 2010, the USEPA permitting process was still ongoing. In fact, the IEPA permit specifically noted that plaintiff would be able to accept polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB) wastes if the USEPA "permits the [chemical-waste unit] as a 'chemical waste landfill.'"

In April 2010, plaintiff filed a motion for summary judgment. Plaintiff asserted defendant lacked the authority to oppose the chemical-waste landfill or to engage in the permitting process because, as a non-home-rule entity, defendant only had those powers granted to it by the constitution or by statute. Following a hearing, the trial court denied plaintiff's motion on the basis that questions of fact remained.

On July 13, 2010, plaintiff filed a motion to reconsider the denial of the motion for summary judgment and a motion for a preliminary injunction. In the motion for a preliminary injunction, plaintiff sought to preliminarily enjoin defendant from (1) filing written public comment with the USEPA, although the time for public comment had not yet commenced; (2) offering oral public comment at the as-yet unscheduled USEPA hearing; (3) ...


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