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LANDFILLS: CHALLENGE TO ILLINOIS POLLUTION CONTROL BOARD"™S APPORTIONMENT OF CIVIC PENALTY

October 02, 2014

Category: Arkansas Environmental, Energy, and Water Law

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Author: Walter G. Wright

Co-Author: Andrew Nadzam

The Illinois Pollution Control Board fined Community Landfill Co. and its sole owners and officers, Edward Pruim and Robert Pruim, $250,000 for violations of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act. See Cmty. Landfill Co., v. Illinois Pollution Control Bd. 2014 WL 3401100 (Ill. App. 3 Dist).

The Board apportioned $25,000 to the company solely, and $225,000 to the company and officers jointly and severally. The officers appealed the civil penalty on the ground that the Board made a mistake in apportioning the amount each party was responsible for. The Appellate Court of Illinois, Third District, found that the Board committed no error in its apportionment decision, and confirmed the Board's order establishing the apportionment of penalties.

The Board based its apportionment decision on the severity of the violations that the company alone was responsible for, and the severity of the violations for which the company and the officers were jointly responsible. The company alone was responsible for nine violations; the most serious causing, threatening, or allowing water pollution and violations of permits issued by the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency. The company and officers were responsible for eight violations that the Board deemed more serious, including failure to update financial assurance for over three years, failure to seek a permit modification, and failure to make biennial cost revisions.

The Board apportioned $25,000 to the company because there were 36 violations with a penalty of $500 each, leading to a total of $18,000. The court added $7,000 because of the severity of the water pollution and permit violations, for a total of $25,000 to the company. The Board then apportioned $225,000 to the company and officers jointly and severally because those violations were deemed more serious than those for which the company alone was responsible. The Board noted that the statute mandated that the penalty be at least equal to the amount of the financial benefit to the defendants, which was $146,286. The Board added the additional amount to reach $225,000 based on the grave nature of the violations and considered the duration they had occurred in, from 3 to 9 years in some cases.

The court upheld the Board's apportionment decision finding it had wide discretion in determining and apportioning the amount of the penalties between the company and the officers. The Board was deemed justified in increasing the penalties because it could consider factors such as the degree of injury to the health and welfare of the people, the duration and gravity of the violations, any economic benefits accrued, and the effect the penalty would have on deterring future misconduct.

A copy of the opinion can be downloaded below.

 

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