Tomorrow morning in Chicago, the Illinois Supreme Court will hear oral argument in The Board of Education of Roxana Community Unit School District No. 1 v. The Pollution Control Board, which presents an important question of Illinois environmental law – who can appeal from a pollution control facility certification, and where is the appeal taken? Our detailed explanation of the underlying facts and lower court rulings in Roxana is here.

The respondent in Roxana submitted twenty-eight applications for certification of certain systems, methods, devices and facilities as pollution control facilities within the meaning of the Property Tax Code. The petitioner filed petitions for leave to intervene in all twenty-eight proceedings. The stakes for the petitioner were high – if certification were granted, the Illinois Department of Revenue would supplant the District as the taxing authority. The Illinois Pollution Control Board denied intervention and granted certification. The petitioner/intervenor appealed, but the Appellate Court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction.

The oral argument in Roxana is likely to turn on a conflict between two statutes. The petitioner is likely to emphasize Section 41(a) of the Environmental Protection Act:

Any party to a Board hearing, any person who filed a complaint on which a hearing was denied, any person who has been denied a variance or permit under this Act, any party adversely affected by a final order or determination of the Board, and any person who participated in the public comment process . . . may obtain judicial review, by filing a petition for review within 35 days . . . under the provisions of the Administrative Review Law . . . 415 ILCS 5/41(a).

On the other hand, the respondent is likely to emphasize Section 11-60 of the Property Tax Code:

Any applicant or holder aggrieved by the issuance, refusal to issue, denial, revocation, modification or restriction of a pollution control certificate or a low sulfur dioxide emission coal fueled device certificate may appeal the finding and order of the Pollution Control Board, under the Administrative Review Law . . . 35 ILCS 200/11-60.

The respondent will likely echo the views of the Appellate Court, arguing that Section 41(a) is limited to appeals originating in the Circuit Courts under the Administrative Review Law, not appeals originating in the Appellate Court, and that allowing a direct appeal to the Appellate Court by an intervenor would render Section 11-60 meaningless. On the other hand, the petitioner will likely argue that Section 11-60, as the narrower statute, should operate as an exception to Section 41(a), with applicants and holders being required to seek judicial review in the Circuit Courts under Section 11-60, while all others are permitted to go straight to the Appellate Court under Section 41(a). The petitioner is likely to cite the concerns of the dissenter at the Appellate Court, who argued that the statutes should not be interpreted to deny any form of review to a local governmental entity which would lose a substantial portion of its tax base through certification.

We expect Roxana to be decided in the next two to three months.