Commissioners Pass Quarry Resolution
Comal County commissioners said they don’t support Vulcan Quarry — and Jen Crownover, Commissioner Precinct #4, even described the situation as “heartbreaking” — but passed anyway on March 22 a resolution that opponents said does not send any kind of a meaningful message to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).
Activists fighting development of the 1,500-acre rock-crushing plant at SH 46 and FM 3009, between Bulverde and New Braunfels, had asked commissioners to beef up language in a resolution submitted for approval earlier by Scott Haag, Commissioner Precinct #2.
The resolution asked TCEQ to use its expertise to protect the health, safety and welfare of Comal County residents before approving an air-quality permit for the facility, and to assess environmental impacts that might created by development.
However, it stopped short of asking for the contested-case hearing opponents requested.
An estimated 12,000 residents live within five miles of the proposed quarry, many in subdivisions whose homeowners moved in with little to no knowledge of Vulcan Materials’ plans for the old White Ranch.
Commissioners Defend Decision
At their weekly meeting, commissioners reiterated they have no zoning authority under state law that would allow them to stop development of the land owned by Vulcan Materials. Instead, they suggested opponents approach their state representatives and ask them to craft legislation that would give counties the authority to regulate projects like Vulcan Quarry.
Scott Haag, Precinct #2
“We can ask for more authority, which we have done, which the counties have done for years and years,” Haag said. “The state is not doing this. TCEQ is a state agency. Rep. Kyle Biederman (District 73), has oversight on TCEQ. We’re asking TCEQ to do their job. We’re asking Rep. Biederman and Sen. Donna Campbell (District 25) to go forward and look at TCEQ and strengthen those regulations or rules that they have to follow.”
Donna Eccleston, Precinct #1
Donna Eccleston, Commissioner Precinct #1, said commissioners lack the authority to even ask for extra air monitors and increased water vigilance.
“We do not have the ability to tell them (TCEQ) what they can and cannot do as far as regulations are concerned,” she said. “…it is very troubling that we don’t have any impact in a lot of areas, as the judge (Sherman Krause) said, we have been asking for it for many years.
“…So I implore you to look to the people who can make significant changes, which are your legislators and the state.”
Jen Crownover, Precinct #4
Crownover said commissioners are being thrown under the bus over Vulcan Quarry.
“The fact of the matter is that we don’t have the tools in the toolbox to stop this,” she said. “We don’t have the authority that most people perceive that we do have. I feel the same way that you guys do about this. It’s heartbreaking to see this happening, and if we had it in our toolbox to be able to stop it, I’m sure that you’d have the support for that.”
Kevin Webb, Precinct #3
Added Kevin Webb, Precinct #3: “It’s not about politics. It’s about what we’re capable of doing and what we feel is right.”
He thanked Haag for taking a leadership position on the resolution.
Opponents Criticize the Action
Stop3009VulcanQuarry wasted no time firing back in a press release, accusing the court of letting its constituents down.
“During the 30-minute citizen comment period of this morning’s regular meeting, 13 people spoke, most urging commissioners to postpone a vote on the matter until stronger language, properly supporting their constituents’ concerns could be added to the resolution.
“Despite these requests, commissioners voted unanimously to pass the resolution as drafted, thereby failing to provide any meaningful support to the over 12,000 residents living within five miles of the proposed quarry site. By passing this ineffective resolution, commissioners continue to side with an out-of-state corporation rather than the citizens they were elected to represent.
“Both the resolution text and the commissioners’ comments repeatedly cited the lack of authority and control counties have. While Comal County doesn’t have direct power through zoning or land use restrictions, the State of Texas grants counties various authorities and duties related to air, water, and public health.
“Additionally, commissioners failed to include specific text that has been effective in defending citizens in similar situations—directly requesting a Contested Case Hearing from TCEQ.”
GEAA Suggests Another Tactic
Annalisa Peace Peace. executive director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, said her group has worked over the years to convince the Texas legislature to grant counties some limited land-use control. In 2009, an attempt was made to get legislators to give nine Texas Hill Country counties, including Comal, some power over land development.
“We’re hoping state representatives and state senators representing these nine counties will file in 2019,” she said. “I hope that Rep. Biederman would be one of those who sponsors this legislation. But for it to be successful we’ll need resolutions from (other) counties.
“We really hope that they will pass a resolution in support of legislation that would actually give them the authority that they need to deal with these matters,” she said, speaking of Comal County commissioners.
In May, TCEQ will release a Response to Comments (RTC) that responds to all formal and online public comments. It will include TCEQ’s executive director’s decision whether to formally approve the permit as-is or with alternative requirements.
If the permit is approved, Comal residents, groups and local governments have another 30 days to request a contested-case hearing (CCH) to provide further evidence they are ‘affected parties.’
“During these 30 days, the Comal County commissioners will have another opportunity to support their constituents and request a CCH for their constituents who will be considered affected parties,” said Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry’s Sabrina House-Amaya in an interview earlier this week. “I certainly hope that the commissioners will take this step and meet the requisite deadline because it’s the right thing to do.”
Resolution Passed by Commissioners on March 22 Urges
- That TCEQ, in reviewing the air quality permit application submitted for the construction and operation of a rock crushing plant, use all its expertise and authority to protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens and environment of Comal County, and to closely examine and grant any requests for a contested case hearing to any person that is deemed to be an affected person or party; and
- That all operations at the proposed site, including but not limited to, air emissions, water usage/protection, and water runoff be carefully reviewed according to the applicable laws and regulations; and
- That our representatives of the Texas Legislature work with the TCEQ to review requirements for air quality permits, water quality oversight, and other environmental protections in Texas, for Texans, and strengthen them as needed.