Judge Strikes Down Air Quality Permit for Proposed 1,500-Acre Limestone Quarry in Comal County
Opponents of a proposed 1,500-acre open-pit limestone quarry between New Braunfels and Bulverde scored a “monumental” victory on Friday when an Austin judge struck down an air-quality permit Alabama-based Vulcan Construction Materials needed to proceed with the controversial project.
Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) granted the permit in 2019 after two years of heated legal wrangling between Vulcan, the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates, and an alliance of Comal County citizens, community groups and Comal ISD.
“We are very grateful that after considering the evidence of our case, the court issued a rare reversal of TCEQ’s unjust and unfounded decision to grant the Vulcan Materials air permit in Comal County,” said David Drewa, director of communications for Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry.
Friday’s district court ruling on Friends of Dry Comal Creek and Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry v. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality reverses and vacates TCEQ’s approval of the Vulcan air permit.
This lawsuit, essentially an administrative appeal filed in February 2020, was the latest step taken by area residents and groups who actively opposed the project for almost four years.
Drewa said the TCEQ permit would have allowed Vulcan’s rock crusher to emit over 95,000 pounds of particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and VOCs into the air annually.
“But without a full accounting of the facts, the actual amount of pollution this facility would produce could be much higher than the permit allows,” he said in a statement issued Friday night. “Attorneys for Friends of Dry Comal Creek and Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry will now draft a final order. TCEQ and Vulcan have the option to appeal the decision, to the Third Court of Appeals.”
459th Civil District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble ruled that:
- TCEQ’s assertion that the quarry would not harm human health or welfare was not supported by evidence.
- Vulcan’s emissions calculations were not representative and not supported by substantial evidence.
- Vulcan’s air quality analysis did not account for cumulative impacts or emissions from the quarry and roads.
- Vulcan’s choice of background concentration was arbitrary or capricious.
- In the contested case hearing, the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) judge erred in allowing Vulcan to hide behind “trade secret” claims.
- Plaintiffs were denied due process when the SOAH judge allowed Vulcan to conceal data using the “trade secret” excuse and did not allow plaintiffs to cross-examine Vulcan.
Vulcan’s proposed mining operation in the Texas Hill Country would stretch across nearly three miles of the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, the primary water supply for over two million people in New Braunfels and San Antonio.
Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry, the activist group spearheading the fight against Vulcan Materials, argued the quarry would create air pollution, jeopardize the area’s water supply and quality, result in heavy truck traffic, destroy caves and ruin property values.
Milann Guckian, president of Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry and Preserve Our Hill Country Environment, said she is “extremely pleased” by Judge Guerra Gamble’s decision.
“This is a win for Comal County residents, our beautiful Hill Country, and the entire state of Texas,” she said. “It is a positive step forward in the process we have undertaken to preserve the quality of life and our natural resources.”
Drewa said area groups will continue to advocate for “common sense oversight of quarries and aggregate production operations” at local and legislative levels.
MyCanyonLake.com has reached out to Vulcan Materials and Comal ISD for comment on this ruling.