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Our View: Don’t spend public funds to buy time

Published: Friday, Jan. 11, 2013 5:30 a.m. CDT

Sometimes it is better to know when things have run their course.

Such is the case with the expansion of the Waste Management landfill near Cortland, the opponents of which now seem bent on a long-shot challenge based on a provision in the Illinois Township Code.

The section of the law reads: “The electors may prevent the deposit of night soil, garbage, or other offensive substances within the limits of the township.”

It goes on to explicitly say that the provision applies to refuse disposal facilities regulated by the Illinois Department of Public Health and the county.

About a week after the DeKalb County Board granted site approval for the landfill expansion in May 2010, Cortland Township held a special meeting at which about 200 electors held a voice vote prohibiting the expansion.

Their voice vote that evening nullifies the county’s lengthy process and approval, they claim.

Of course, if they were so confident in their case, they probably would have brought it immediately after the expansion was approved instead of waiting almost three years.

Those on the other side say the Illinois Environmental Protection Act – not the Township Code – governs the permitting of landfills in Illinois.

The act does set forth, at length, the procedures for approving landfills. It lays out the process that counties and municipalities must follow when considering an application to approve a landfill expansion, as well as the protocols for receiving IEPA approval of a landfill project.

The law contains more than 200,000 words. “Township” is not among them. Neither is “night soil,” which you probably shouldn’t look up if you’re eating right now.

Both the Illinois Pollution Control Board and a panel of appellate court judges have found that the county did follow the process laid out by law. Opponents have appealed to the state Supreme Court, which has the option to hear it.

It seems unlikely that a judge would rule that an anachronistic provision of township code would overrule the Environmental Protection Act.

Cortland Township’s official involvement in this issue has been to say no. In addition to the 2010 resolution, the township board also passed a resolution against the plan in 2009.

Their reasons for their saying no are obvious and understandable – it’s a natural, knee-jerk reaction to the prospect of having more trash in the area.

But we question the wisdom and fairness of a system that would allow a voice vote at a township hall to overrule a county decision made after a long process that included public input and expert testimony.

Most likely, a judge would as well.

If this challenge goes ahead, it will only delay the inevitable. Taxpayer money should not be spent buying time.

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