TCEQ Rules in Favor of Quarry Permit
Residents who oppose Vulcan Materials’ proposed 1,500-acre open-pit limestone quarry at FM 3009 and SH-46 have until Oct. 15 to submit their requests to be named affected parties eligible to protest the project at contested-case hearings (CCH) before Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
The administrative clock began ticking on Sept. 14, when the agency issued its long-awaited “Response to Comments” (RTC) made at a heated Feb. 17 public hearing in New Braunfels. The RTC is the written response to all formal comments received during the comment period for the application.
To read the RTC in its entirely, click HERE.
TCEQ ruled Vulcan’s permit application meets the requirements of applicable law. However, the RTC does not authorize construction or operation of any of Vulcan ‘s proposed facilities.
TCEQ commissioners will decide the fate of Air Quality Permit Number 147392L001 at a later meeting.
Until then, Vulcan can’t proceed on the controversial project, located in a residential area of central Comal County between Bulverde, Spring Branch, Garden Ridge and New Braunfels. An estimated 12,000 people live within five miles of this non-industrial area.
Activists Remain Optimistic
Sabrina Houser-Amaya, a community activist who spearheads Friends of Dry Comal Creek/Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry, said she remains optimistic her group will prevail despite the fact TCEQ’s report largely favors Vulcan Materials.
“We remain steadfast that our science findings will show that Vulcan Materials and Westward Consulting have provided erroneous information,” she said in an email. “The TCEQ must take notice and re-review the current application’s modeling, cascading injurious events, and impacts upon residents in the short-and-long term, and initiate more stringent monitoring standards.”
Stop Vulcan 3009 is now focused on helping community members pursue individual CCHs and affected-party status, Houser-Amaya said. For more information about the process, click here. To contact the group, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Vulcan Materials did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A legislative aide for Rep. Kyle Biedermann, Texas House District 73, said his office does not have an official response to the RTC. Comal County commissioners are reviewing the document, according to Jen Crownover, Commissioner Pct. 4.
RTC includes a lengthy list of state and local officials who either oppose authorization of the proposed plant and/or support the concerns of area residents.
First the RTC, Now the CCH
According to Friends of Dry Comal Creek/Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry, anyone living within a five-mile radius of the proposed quarry site should submit a hearing request to be named an affected party eligible for a CCH.
Contested-case hearings are legal procedures similar to civil trials, Houser-Amaya said. They allow affected parties to appear before an administrative law judge and explain how the proposed quarry would harm their health, property, or natural resources.
Affected parties are defined as residents, landowners, organizations, counties, cities and school districts.
TCEQ Rules According to Applicable Law
According to its RTC, TCEQ reviewed the permit application in accordance with applicable law, policy, procedures and its mandate to protect public health and natural resources consistent with sustainable development.
By law, TCEQ cannot deny the authorization of a proposed plant if the permit application contains a demonstration that all applicable statutes, rules and regulations will be met. Its jurisdiction is established by the legislature and is limited to issues set for the statute.
Major Points in RTC
These points were made in response to multiple comments by hundreds of citizens and elected officials.
- Emissions authorized by this permit are protective of both human health and welfare, including physical property and the environments;
- There is no expectation of adverse health impacts from silica emissions created by the crushing of limestone rock;
- Adverse short- or long-term health effects for the general public — including sensitive sub-groups like children and elderly as well as animal life, crops and vegetation — are not expected as a result of exposure to proposed emissions;
- Adverse health effects are not expected for person living on or visiting nearby properties;
- TCEQ does not have regulatory jurisdiction over quarry operations or any associated blasting, roads or trucks and rules do not require an applicant to analyze emissions resulting from quarry operations, blasting, roads, or the use of trucks in an individual permit application;
- If operated in accordance with requirements of the permit, adverse impacts to endangered species are not expected;
- Emissions from the plant are not expected to cause an exceedance of national ambient air quality standards;
- There is no restriction on the amount of time the crushers may be used on-site apart from the typical permit renewal cycles;
- The draft permit does not authorize the processing or handling of materials TCEQ or U.S Environmental Protection Agency has designated as hazardous, nor is the rock-crushing industry associated with these materials. Accordingly, the hazard potential is low;
- TCEQ cannot limit hours of operation;
- TCEQ does not have the authority to consider local economic impacts or the potential for future development because of a plant’s location;
- TCEQ does not have the authority to consider concerns regarding aesthetics, zoning and land-use issues, or effects on property values when determining whether to approve or deny a permit;
- Emissions from the proposed plant are not expected to cause an exceedance of secondary national ambient air quality standards. As a result, air emissions from the plant are not expected to adversely impact land, soil, livestock, wildlife, crops or visibility. Nor should emissions, including particulate matter emissions, interfere with use and enjoyment of surrounding land or water;
- TCEQ’s does not have jurisdiction to consider traffic or road safety when determining whether to approve or deny a permit application. Trucks and their emissions are considered mobile sources, which are not regulated by TCEQ. TCEQ also is prohibited from regulation roads;
- The agency does not have jurisdiction to consider noise or light from a plant when determining whether to approve or deny a permit. Noise ordinances are enacted by cities and counties.
“We’ve presented a safe and responsible plan that demonstrates we’re committed to Comal County and the community,” said Vulcan spokesman Scott Burnham. “As part of the plan, we will implement a comprehensive dust control plan, ensure water resources are preserved, and work with TxDOT to make sure traffic outside the facility flows safely and efficiently. These are measures Vulcan has successfully implemented at numerous facilities across that state and country that are located in close proximity to residential neighborhoods, schools, medical facilities, shopping centers, and places of worship.”
The large 1,500-acre property is uniquely designed to fit within the existing landscape and typography and will include more than 600 acres of buffer zones, setbacks and natural landscape, meaning 40 percent of the property will not be mined, Burnham said.