House Bill 5823 addresses a recent 2nd District Appellate
Court ruling, State of Illinois v. AgPro Inc. and David Schulte,
in which the court said the attorney general and local state's
attorneys have only limited authority to force polluters to clean
up environmental damage they cause. The Appellate Court held that
in most cases, all the trial court can do is order the polluter to
stop adding to its mess.
"The court's decision threatens a
critical authority the state has had for more than 30 years. We
must be allowed to do more than just stop pollution. We also need
to make those responsible clean up the property they have
contaminated," the governor said.
House Bill 5823 amends the state's
Environmental Protection Act to provide that the court can issue
an injunction ordering polluters to clean up the damage they
cause. The bill was sponsored by state Rep. Barbara Flynn Currie,
D-Chicago, and state Sen. William Haine, D-Alton.
In the AgPro case, the Ogle County
Circuit Court held that the attorney general's office had proven
its case that AgPro had contaminated the drinking water of its
neighbors with pesticides from its operations. The attorney
general's office subsequently asked the court to order the
defendants to clean up the contaminants, reimburse taxpayers for
costs of the investigation and prosecution, and pay fines.
However, in a significant reversal of decades of cases, the court
held that Illinois law does not give the court the authority to
order the defendants to clean up their pollution. The court
reasoned that since AgPro had stopped dumping the pesticides, the
company currently was not taking any action that could be
The appeals court sided with the
circuit decision. Madigan said that because of the devastating
effect the decision would have on efforts to force polluters to
clean up their illegal sites, her office appealed the Appellate
Court decision to the Illinois Supreme Court, which has accepted
[to top of second column
in this article]
"Once a site is contaminated, it is
not enough to order the polluter to stop further polluting. This
amendment restores the critical ability of my office to require a
polluter to clean up its illegal mess," Madigan said. "Not only do
we have the power to stop something, we have to power to make it
"For more than three decades, the
Illinois EPA has been referring cases to the attorney general to
pursue remedies to stop or clean up pollution, and this legislation
ensures that valuable enforcement tool remains available," said
Illinois EPA Director Renee Cipriano.
Gov. Blagojevich also signed
House Bill 4567 on Wednesday. The bill clarifies a portion of
the environmental "bad actor" bill sought by Madigan and signed into
law by the governor last year.
House Bill 4567 makes clear that a
person or business found by a court or the Illinois Pollution
Control Board to have committed a willful or knowing violation of
any portion of the Environmental Protection Act is banned from doing
business with the state or any state agency from the date of the
order containing the finding until five years after that date. The
bill was sponsored by state Rep. Ricca Slone, D-Peoria, and state
Sen. John Cullerton, D-Chicago.
"This additional penalty makes it clear
that intentionally threatening the environment and health of our
citizens is unacceptable," said Gov. Blagojevich.
"Most businesses and companies follow our
environmental laws because they know it helps them in the long run.
Unfortunately, there are some companies that see pollution as just
another cost of doing business," Madigan said. "This legislation
doesn't make it harder to do business in Illinois -- it makes it
harder to pollute in Illinois. The state should not be doing
business with companies that have been found to have willfully or
knowingly violated the Environmental Protection Act."
[News release from the