Three environmental groups have filed a lawsuit claiming the Illinois Department of Natural Resources granted a permit for a sand mind planned for land adjacent toStarvedRockState Parkwithout fully considering its effects.
The Sierra Club, Prairie Rivers Network and Openlands said Wednesday that the lawsuit was filed inSpringfield.
The DNR in November granted a permit to Mississippi Sand LLC for the 80-acre open-pit mine. The mine still needs a permit from the state Environmental Protection Agency.
The suit claims the DNR failed to follow its own guidelines in considering the mine’s effects on vegetation, fish and wildlife, land values, air and water pollution and the local economy.
Earlier this year, La Salle County Board, following the recommendation made by the La Salle County Zoning Board of Appeals, granted a special use permit to Mississippi Sand for the purpose of creating a mine that would pull tons of silica sand from deep underground. The mine has drawn much controversy because it has affectively forced about a dozen homeowners to sell their homes and it is very near the eastern entrance toStarvedRockState Park.
According to an email sent to Sierra Club members obtained by the NewsTribune, the 24-page complaint alleges that the Office of Mines and Minerals failed to follow state law as well as its own guidelines in reviewing the permit for Mississippi Sand.
It alleges that Mississippi Sand provided incomplete and inaccurate information in its mining permit application to the Office of Mines and Minerals, approved its reclamation plan and map, even though Mississippi Sand couldn’t follow certain parts of it within the approved mining area, and didn’t fully consider 13 factors that address natural resource impacts, including the short and long term impact of the proposed mining on vegetation, wildlife, fish, land use, land values, local tax base, the economy of the region and the state, employment opportunities, air pollution, water pollution, soil contamination, noise pollution, and drainage , as required by the Surface Mined Land Conservation and Reclamation Act and its regulations.
The complaint also alleges that the Office of Realty and Environmental Planning didn’t perform a proper natural areas consultation under the Illinois Natural Areas Preservation Act. As a result, the Office of Mines and Minerals made an arbitrary and “capricious” decision by issuing the permit.
DNR spokesman Chris McCloud said the department hadn’t yet reviewed the lawsuit and declined further comment.
Tony Giordano, president of Mississippi Sand, LLC, said the sand mine project was ready to begin next spring but now that a lawsuit has been filed it could delay the project for as long as a year.
“This has been the most scrutinized sand mine in the state ofIllinois,” Giordano said. “It’s frustrating. This lawsuit has little merit. There are multiple state agencies that have examined mines and given us permits. In the end, we’ll get our permits and have to look at that time what the market will bare.”
Officials from International Union of Operating Engineers Local 150, who has already been tabbed by Mississippi Sand to fill the 70 or more full-time jobs needed to operate the mine, are calling the lawsuit an expected stall tactic that is preventing this area from obtaining much needed, quality jobs.
“There is a lot of misinformation out there regarding this mine and this is just an attempt to stall the mine from opening,” said Steve Russo, Local 150 organizer/business representative. “It’s frustrating because we have people that have been sitting out of work for nearly three years and others who have had to move to as far away as Montana to find jobs. This is just a stall tactic and if they are successful all they will do is hold up jobs from being created for another year.”
Kevin Caufield can be reached at (815) 220-6932 or firstname.lastname@example.org.