Mark Templeton on the Inability of Illinois Residents to Challenge Environmental Permits

Bill Would Allow Illinois Residents to Challenge Environmental Permits

The courts dismissed the case three years later, maintaining that the residents did not have the legal standing to sue, despite living a few hundred feet from the planned mine. (Construction of the mine has been placed on hold since the property’s sale to U.S. Silica.)

“The courts have narrowly understood the law and as a result have excluded people who are suffering or have the potential to suffer real and significant harms from these kinds of operations,” said Mark Templeton, director of the Abrams Environmental Law Clinic at the University of Chicago and one of the attorneys on the case.

That could soon change. Illinois attorney general candidate and state Sen. Kwame Raoul, D-Chicago, plans to file a bill this month that would amend the state’s Administrative Review Law to ensure residents are able to challenge permits issued by state regulators, including the Department of Natural Resources, Department of Agriculture and the Illinois Pollution Control Board. Under the planned bill, residents would have legal standing to sue over environmental concerns such as air pollution, contaminated groundwater, offensive odors and more.

Currently, only “affected parties” have standing in such cases, Templeton said, meaning that permits can be challenged only by the agencies that issue them or the companies that receive them.

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