Citizens in Jefferson County Get a Voice in Court

A group of citizens in Hillsboro, MO, has been working hard to preserve the air and water quality near their homes since 2018, when they learned a developer planned to build a silica sand mine in an agricultural and residential area in Hillsboro. The silica sand would be used for fracking, which is the process of drilling down into the earth before a high-pressure water mixture is directed at the rock to release the gas inside. Water, sand and chemicals are injected into the rock at high pressure which allows the gas to flow out to the head of the well.

Great Rivers assisted the citizens with their opposition to the proposal in the Planning and Zoning and County Commission boards, both of which voted to deny the proposal. The County had denied the application for many reasons, including that the proposed mine would destroy the tranquility and quality of life for residents in the neighborhood, the mine would cause an increase in traffic, noise, dust, health hazards and stormwater runoff to the surrounding residential area, and the mine would cause increases in noise, water and air pollution.

Great Rivers Environmental Law Center Excavation Equipment

However, the developer then sued Jefferson County, asking the Court to reverse the County Commission’s decision and seeking monetary compensation for not being allowed to mine the land. The developer later dropped the first count, agreeing not to build the sand mine in that location. Jefferson County now is working to convince the Court to dismiss the remaining count seeking monetary compensation.

On behalf of the citizens, Great Rivers requested permission to file a Friend of the Court (“Amicus”) Brief in the trial court and on April 5, 2019, the court allowed the citizens to do that. This means that although these citizens do not have a legal claim to be directly involved in the lawsuit, their voice can be heard in Court.

“Jefferson County stood up for the health of its citizens,” said Kathleen Henry, attorney at Great Rivers Environmental Law Center. “The Planning and Zoning Commission and County Council had dozens of valid reasons for denying a permit to build a silica mine in a residential area and the County should not have to pay developers after denying permits for good reason.”

The County’s motion to dismiss is set for hearing May 17, 2019, in the Jefferson County Circuit Court.

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