While one is expected, the City has not received an application for a waste transfer station on Powis Road. That said, the City would like all of the residents to understand its role in the siting proceedings for a new transfer station in the City of West Chicago. The procedures and process, and the rights and responsibilities of the parties, are dictated by Section 39.2 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, by Article VII “Pollution Control Facility Site Approval Procedures” of the City’s Code of Ordinances and by the case law. It is important to note that the process governed by Section 39.2 deals only with the City’s review of a proposed site for a pollution control facility. Any development and operational permits for the facility must be obtained from the Illinois Environmental Protection Agency.
Section 39.2 of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act requires that any person or party who desires to develop, construct or operate a new pollution control facility must make a written request to the local unit of government (the “City”) in which the proposed facility is to be located. Usually, that written “request” is accompanied by a detailed, in-depth, multi-volume application, wherein the applicant includes information which it feels addresses and demonstrates compliance with the following nine statutory criteria:
(i) The facility is necessary to accommodate the waste needs of the area it is intended to serve;
(ii) The facility is so designed, located and proposed to be operated that the public health, safety and welfare will be protected;
(iii) The facility is located so as to minimize incompatibility with the character of the surrounding area and to minimize the effect on the value of surrounding property;
(iv) (A) for a facility other than a sanitary landfill or waste disposal site, the facility is located outside the boundary of the 100 year flood plain or the site is flood-proofed; (B) for a facility that is a sanitary landfill or waste disposal site, the facility is located outside the boundary of the 100-year flood plain, or if the facility is a facility described in subsection (b)(3) of Section 22.19a of the Illinois Environmental Protection Act (415 ILCS 5/22.19a), the site is flood-proofed;
(v) The plan of operations for the facility is designed to minimize the danger to the surrounding area from fire, spills, or other operational accidents;
(vi) The traffic patterns to and from the facility are so designed as to minimize the impact on existing traffic flows;
(vii) If the facility will be treating, storing or disposing of hazardous waste, an emergency response plan exists for the facility which includes notification, containment and evacuation procedures used in the case of an accidental release;
(viii) If the facility is to be located in a county where the county board has adopted a solid waste management plan consistent with the planning requirements of the Local Solid Waste Disposal Act, or the Solid Waste Planning and Recycling Act, the facility is consistent with that plan; for the purposes of this criterion, the solid waste management plan means the plan that is in effect as of the date the application for siting approval is filed; and
(ix) If the facility will be located within a regulated recharge area, any applicable requirements specified by the Illinois Pollution Control Board for such areas have been met.
The actual siting process begins by the applicant providing the proper notice that is required under the Act and the Siting Ordinance and the filing of the application with the City.
At least one public hearing to allow evidence, testimony and public comments on the nine criteria that must be satisfied to receive siting approval must be held. The purpose of the hearing is to allow all interested parties an opportunity to make their positions on the proposed facility known to the City. Under the Illinois Environmental Protection Act, the ultimate responsibility for acting on the application is vested with the City Council. As such, the City Council and its members serve like judges and determine whether the nine criteria have been met.
The applicant has the burden of proof to establish either through a written submission and/or oral testimony that the proposed facility meets all nine criteria of Section 39.2 including whether the proposed facility is necessary. The hearing procedure also allows opponents of the facility the opportunity to place evidence in the record that rebuts or impeaches the testimony of the applicant. Like a judge, the City Council members must make its decision on whether the criteria has been met only on the record in this proceeding and no City Council member can prejudge the merits of the application nor will they make any comments about the application until the end of the public hearing process.
At the end of the public hearing process, the City Council must determine compliance or non-compliance with the criteria and approves or denies the requested site location. Each one of the nine criteria must be met in order for the City Council to approve the siting. Section 39.2 provides, however, that if the siting criteria are met, i.e., the evidence sufficiently supports each criterion, the siting must be approved. Conversely, if the City Council determines that the applicant has not demonstrated compliance with all criteria, then the request for siting approval must be denied. In addition, state law provides that the City Council must make its decision based upon the record made in the underlying proceeding only. A statement justifying the siting decision must be made in writing by the City Council, it cannot just decide that it doesn’t want a transfer station or another transfer station located within the City limits.
As the City moves forward with this process, please remember that it is imperative that issues of fundamental fairness, including bias of City Council members are kept in mind and that no City Council member can pre-judge a siting application. As such, state law prevents City Council members from engaging in any substantive conversation concerning the merits of an application until it has rendered its formal decision.
With that being said, your voice is important to all of the City Council members and you can make your opinion known by simply filing a written comment in the record or appearing at the time of the public hearing. The City Council will fully and fairly consider any public comment properly included within the record, and your opinion is important to it as a decision maker. But it must be part of the local siting hearing for the City Council to consider it.