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Monsanto Co. v. Pollution Control Bd.

Citation: 8 ELR 20016
No. No. 48748, 367 N.E.2d 684/67 Ill. 2d 276, (Ill., 10/03/1977)

The Illinois Supreme Court reverses the appellate court and upholds the state pollution control board's grant of a variance from state mercury discharge standards which imposed technologically infeasible conditions on the plaintiff. Whereas simple findings of fact by state administrative agencies will be reversed when not supported by the weight of the available evidence, affirmative sanctions and measures undertaken pursuant to a broad delegation of policy-making authority will be overturned only where such measures have been shown to be arbitrary and capricious. Here the variance granted by the Board and the conditions included therein are to be judged by the latter standard and represent a proper exercise of discretionary rule-making authority. The court cannot substitute its judgment for that of the Board concerning the plaintiff's ability to comply with the challenged conditions. Moreover, economic and technological infeasibility are in themselves insufficient grounds for striking down such conditions. The role of the Pollution Control Board under the Environmental Protection Act is to balance dangers to public health and the environment against individual hardship. Board action which places a grave economic hardship upon an entity may nevertheless be sustained under the "arbitrary and capricious" standard of review of justified by environmental necessity. Another contention advanced by plaintiff is that the Board erred in finding itself without statutory authority to allow permanent exemptions from state mercury discharge regulations. The court rejected this interpretation of the Act, characterizing it as contrary to the letter, spirit, and legislative history of the Act.

Counsel for Plaintiff-Appellee
Richard J. Kissel, Thomas H. Donohoe
Martin, Craig, Chester & Sonnenschein
LaSalle Bank Bldg., 135 S. LaSalle St., Chicago IL 60603
(312) 236-2400

Counsel for Defendants-Appellants
William J. Scott, Attorney General; George W. Wolff, James M. Cahan, Russell R. Eggert, Ass't Attorneys General
160 N. LaSalle, Rm. 900, Chicago IL 60601
(312) 236-2400