Opponents of the proposed Vulcan Quarry have until Nov. 13 to file a motion for a rehearing after the Texas Supreme Court declined to hear their petition asking it to vacate a lower court ruling that greenlights the controversial project.
The Supreme Court’s Sept. 29 decision dealt a major blow to Preserve Our Hill Country Environment (POHCE), a group of volunteer citizens who have spent the last seven years fighting to keep the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) from granting Vulcan Materials the air quality permit it needs to turn a former ranch in central Comal County into a 1,500-acre open pit limestone quarry.
POHCE President Milann Guckian, a property owner who shares a fenceline with Vulcan’s property at FM 3009 and State Highway 46, said the Supreme Court did not give a reason for denying the group’s petition.
“The Texas Supreme Court’s decision was extremely disappointing but unfortunately not surprising,” she said. “We’ve been granted an extension of time to speak with our supporters, the board and our attorneys about requesting a rehearing on that decision.”
POHCE must present grounds for reconsideration and is looking into what that might entail.
The Alabama-based Vulcan Materials is the nation’s largest producer of construction aggregates.
The proposed quarry is ringed by residential areas in Bulverde, Spring Branch, Garden Ridge and New Braunfels that are home to an estimated 12,000 people.
The project would stretch across nearly three miles of the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone, the source of water for over two million people in Central Texas.
By law, Vulcan must submit a Water Pollution Abatement Plan (WPAP) outlining best management practices for operating in the Edwards Aquifer, and that’s the battleground for POHCE’s next offensive against the aggregate giant.
Annalisa Peace, executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said aggregate operations like Vulcan’s proposed quarry already use 21.4% of Comal County’s water, and none of that is recycled.
POHCE’s petition to the Supreme Court follows several years of intense legal wrangling over a March 2021 ruling by 459th Civil District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that vacated TCEQ’s 2019 decision to give Vulcan Materials’ the permit.
Under Texas law, TCEQ can only permit a facility if it finds no indication it will harm the public’s health and physical property.
TCEQ, joined by Vulcan, asked the Texas Third District Court of Appeals to overturn Guerra Gamble’s decision.
Retired Judge J. Woodfin Jones, sitting “by assignment,” agreed with them in a 39-page ruling issued in September 2022.
POHCE quickly responded in a statement.
“The panel showed no regard for relevant legal issues raised by Texans living and working in the area and essentially concluded Vulcan’s claims seem fine, and we trust them, no need to verify — or even see — the underlying data,” said POHCE Communications Director David Drewa in an interview.
Opponents claim the quarry would destroy property values, negatively impact water supply and quality, threaten the environment, harm nearby caves, and create traffic nightmares for over thousands of people who didn’t realize they’d purchased homes near a major industrial development.