AUSTIN—The determined alliance of Comal County citizens, community groups, and Comal ISD prevailed on Friday in a monumental victory over the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and Vulcan Construction Materials, LLC. Judge Maya Guerra Gamble, 459th District Court, Travis County, ruled overwhelmingly in favor of the plaintiffs, who have, since 2017, been fighting a proposed 1500-acre limestone quarry between New Braunfels and Bulverde.
In November 2019, TCEQ commissioners granted an air permit to Alabama-based Vulcan Materials for the planned quarry. Friday’s district court decision in 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.
Vulcan’s proposed open-pit limestone mining operation in the Texas Hill Country would stretch across nearly three miles of the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone (primary water supply for over two million people, including the cities of San Antonio and New Braunfels). Neighbors are concerned about air pollution, water supply and quality, truck traffic, destruction of caves, and decreased property values that could result from the location of this heavy industrial facility in a residential area populated by over 12,000 people.
This lawsuit, essentially an administrative appeal filed in February 2020, was the latest step taken by area residents and groups who have been actively opposing the project for almost four years.
Judge Guerra Gamble ruled for the citizens’ groups on several key points:
- 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 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.
The permit, struck down by the court, 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. 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.
Milann Guckian, president of Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry and Preserve Our Hill Country Environment, stated, “We are extremely pleased with Judge Guerra Gamble’s decision. This is a win for Comal County residents, our beautiful Hill Country, and the entire state of Texas. It is a positive step forward in the process we have undertaken to preserve quality of life and our natural resources.”
“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. Drewa says that the citizens groups will continue to advocate for common sense oversight of quarries and APOs—at both the local and legislative levels. Stay informed by visiting www.stop3009vulcanquarry.com and following our Facebook page for news updates.
Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry is a grassroots-driven campaign opposed to the 1500-acre open-pit limestone quarry proposed by Vulcan Materials in a residential area of central Comal County, between Bulverde and New Braunfels.
- District Court Decision Letter (March 5, 2021)