Supreme Court Summaries

Opinions filed November 21, 2013



Board of Education of Roxana Community School District No. 1 v. Pollution Control Board, 2013 IL 115473

Appellate citation: 2012 IL App (4th) 120174-U.

      JUSTICE KARMEIER delivered the judgment of the court, with opinion.

      Chief Justice Garman and Justices Freeman, Thomas, Kilbride, and Theis concurred in the judgment and opinion.

      Justice Burke took no part in the decision.

      In Madison County, a company known as WRB owns the Wood River Petroleum Refinery. Hoping to secure preferential tax assessments under the Property Tax Code, WRB applied to the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency to have several newly made renovations at the refinery certified as “pollution control facilities.” Ultimately, on that agency’s recommendation, the Pollution Control Board granted the requested certifications as to 28 separate facilities.

      The Board of Education of Roxana Community School District No. 1 was of the view that the certifications in question would ultimately deprive it of tax revenue. The school board had sought to intervene in the proceedings on certification, raising a substantive challenge as to whether the requirements of the tax code had been met, but the Pollution Control Board denied it leave to intervene. The school board sought administrative review in the appellate court, but that court dismissed the appeal for lack of jurisdiction. The Illinois Supreme Court, in this decision, affirmed the dismissal, although reasoning differently than the appellate court.

      The school board had argued that the Environmental Protection Act provided a proper basis for challenging the Pollution Control Board’s decisions through direct appeal to the appellate court. The school board claimed status as “any party adversely affected by a final order or determination” of the Pollution Control Board. However, the supreme court said that the school board had never been a party and it had been denied leave to intervene. Thus, the Environmental Protection Act did not afford the school board any basis for seeking administrative review in the appellate court.

      The supreme court said that the time at which a taxing body such as this board of education may have a voice in how certified pollution control facilities within their borders are taxed is when value has actually been assessed by the Department of Revenue. At that time, school boards may apply for review and correction of assessments, ask for a hearing, and seek review in the circuit court. Even in such a situation, the law does not authorize direct review in the appellate court.

      The supreme court also pointed out that the question of whether an item qualifies as a pollution control facility for tax purposes is a technical one between the entity seeking certification and regulatory officials. Statute makes no provision for involvement of any other parties in the certification process, and concerns arising from this arrangement are for the legislature to resolve.

      The appellate court’s judgment was affirmed.