Illinois Appellate Court Upholds Denial of Injunction To Property Owners

An Illinois appellate court has upheld a lower court’s denial of injunctive relief to certain landowners who sought to enjoin Illinois, via its regulatory body, from enforcing newly adopted hydraulic fracturing regulations in the state.

Specifically, in Smith v. Dep’t of Resources, NO. 5-14-0583, 2015 Ill. App. LEXIS 536 (Ill. 5th Dist. App. July 10, 2015), Plaintiffs commenced an action against the Illinois Department of Resources, among others, seeking a preliminary injunction to stop the state from implementing the regulations recently adopted by the state.   Previously, Illinois passed the Hydraulic Fracturing Act (225 ILCS 732/1-130 (West Supp. 2013)), which empowered the state’s regulatory body to adopt rules under the act.

During the process of adopting the relevant rules, plaintiffs, who were essentially comprised of landowners, filed an action in the Madison County Circuit Court.   The trial court evaluated the merits of each of the relevant prongs towards injunctive relief (i.e., irreparable harm, likelihood of success, and adequate remedy at law) and determined that the plaintiffs did not meet their burden of proof.

On appeal, the appellate court evaluated the lower court’s decision and found that it did not abuse its discretion in denying injunctive relief.   For example, as to the irreparable harm element, the Court determined that their claims were “too speculative to justify the extraordinary relief afforded by the issuance of a preliminary injunction.”   Consequently, the Court affirmed the lower court’s decision since Plaintiffs could not establish the critical element to injunctive relief.

This case shows that, as more states approve of hydraulic fracturing, challenges seeking both injunctive relief and damages are being brought against state regulatory bodies.   The case-law is quickly evolving in this area.


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