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Sierra Club v. Office of Mines & Minerals of Dep't of Natural Resources

Court of Appeals of Illinois, Fourth District

March 5, 2015

THE OFFICE OF MINES AND MINERALS of the Department of Natural Resources; THE OFFICE OF REALTY AND ENVIRONMENTAL PLANNING of the Department of Natural Resources; THE DEPARTMENT OF NATURAL RESOURCES; MARC MILLER, Director of Natural Resources in His Professional Capacity; and MISSISSIPPI SAND, LLC, Defendants-Appellees

Modified upon denial of rehearing May 15, 2015.

Appeal from Circuit Court of Sangamon County. No. 12MR1021. Honorable John P. Schmidt, Judge Presiding.

Mark Templeton and Mark Rohan, law student, both of University of Chicago Law School, and Albert Ettinger, all of Chicago, and Eric M. Schwing, of Springfield, for appellants.

Claire A. Manning (argued), of Brown, Hay & Stephens, LLP, of Springfield, for appellee Mississippi Sand, LLC.

William P. Hardy (argued), of Hinshaw & Culbertson LLP, of Springfield, and Russell R. Eggert, of Lathrop & Gage LLP, of Chicago, for other appellees.

JUSTICE TURNER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion. Presiding Justice Pope and Justice Steigmann concurred in the judgment and opinion.


Page 1069


[¶1] Plaintiffs, the Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network, and Openlands, appeal the Sangamon County circuit court's April 16, 2014, dismissal of their first-amended petition for review of the actions of defendants,

Page 1070

the Department of Natural Resources (Department); the Department's Office of Mines and Minerals; the Department's Office of Realty and Environmental Planning; and Marc Miller, the Department Director (collectively, Department defendants), in approving the surface-mining permit of defendant, Mississippi Sand, LLC (Mississippi Sand). On appeal, plaintiffs assert they have standing to challenge the Department defendants' actions. We affirm.


[¶3] A. La Salle County Board Proceedings

[¶4] In September 2011, Mississippi Sand submitted an application for a zoning special-use permit to the La Salle County department of environmental services and land use, seeking to conduct mining operations on a site in La Salle County. In January 2012, the La Salle County board approved a special-use permit for Mississippi Sand's mining operations.

[¶5] B. Department Proceedings

[¶6] On February 16, 2012, Mississippi Sand applied to the Department's Office of Mines and Minerals for a 10-year surface-mining permit to extract silica from the St. Peter Sand-stone Formation, which is adjacent to the eastern entrance of Starved Rock State Park. With its application, Mississippi Sand included a reclamation plan and a reclamation map, which depicted its plans for restoring the land after completing the proposed open-pit mine. Mississippi Sand also submitted an " affected area" map. Those documents were required by section 5(e)(14) of the Surface-Mined Land Conservation and Reclamation Act (Mining Act) (225 ILCS 715/5(e)(14) (West 2012)). The application also attached several other documents, including an October 2011 threatened/endangered-species report for the area that was prepared by Planning Resources, Inc. Another document indicated that, in June 2011, Planning Resources, Inc., contacted the Department for use of the ecological compliance assessment tool (EcoCAT). According to the document, " EcoCAT uses databases, Geographic Information System mapping, and a set of programmed decision rules to determine if proposed actions are in the vicinity of protected natural resources." The other documents show La Salle County had consulted with the Department before issuing the special-use permit.

[¶7] Michael Falter, supervisor of operations of the mine safety and training division of the Office of Mines and Minerals, forwarded Mississippi Sand's permit application to Pat Malone, a Department employee, for an endangered-species review. In a March 2012 e-mail, Malone informed Falter Mississippi Sand's surface-mining-permit application was reviewed in accordance with section 11 of the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act (520 ILCS 10/11 (West 2012)), section 17 of the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act (Preservation Act) (525 ILCS 30/17 (West 2012)), and part 1075 of Title 17 of the Illinois Administrative Code (17 Ill. Adm. Code 1075). The e-mail then noted consultation for this surface-mining permit had been terminated.

[¶8] Also in March 2012, a group of citizens sent Miller, the Department's director, a letter raising concerns about Mississippi Sand's proposed mine near Starved Rock State Park. Elliot Brinkman, as an employee of plaintiff Prairie Rivers Network, helped draft the aforementioned citizen letter. (The affidavit of Brinkman was attached to plaintiffs' motion for summary judgment.) Plaintiffs Sierra ...

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