Since the Summer 2017, landowners abutting the White Ranch (SH46 @ FM3009), as well as residents within a 5-mile radius of the 1,500-acre site have actively protested and challenged Vulcan Construction Materials (VCM) air permit application to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for a rock crushing plant at this location.
“It’s apparent that people are concerned about this quarry being ‘helicoptered’ into our pristine Hill Country.” stated Sabrina Houser Amaya, spokesperson for Friends of Dry Comal Creek/Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry. The property in question was owned by long-term Comal County resident, Eric W. White who for several years attempted to sell the property to residential developers – all who walked away due to lack of water. VCM acquired the property by using a ‘shell’ corporation, Blue Pines Holdings (property ID 81927), to purchase the land from Mr. White. To date, Blue Pine Holdings is the deed owner of the property in the Comal Appraisal District database. “Our understanding is that only upon closing did Mr. White learn of the land’s intended use” stated Houser-Amaya.
Local Comal County citizens are very concerned about this carcinogenic generating industrial complex being situated among 12,000+ residents within 5-miles. Unfortunately, the Comal County Commissioners have repeatedly used the Teflon shield and mantra of “we have no tools in our toolbox”. Despite many discussions and communications with Mayor Casteel and County Commissioners on the various options available to them (issuing a moratorium, initiating a 391 Commission, and/or actively participating as an ‘affected party”), residents have been stonewalled. Mayor Carter Casteel has stated that he’s not willing to spend any monies to support legally or otherwise an ‘affected party’ status for the County. Commissioner Haag stated “the county does not have the legal standing to be considered an affected party” yet the Office of Public Interest Council (OPIC) recommended the County as an affected party. Notwithstanding the lack of elected officials’ support, many Comal County citizens named as ‘affected parties’ will spend their own monies to legally defend against this permit.
To date, there is a substantial amount of concern by area residents. Over 700 unique people submitted requests for a public meeting which was held February 27, 2018. On this date, over 500 persons were in attendance, and approximately 75 persons made 3-minute oral comments for the public record stating their concerns about the proposed quarry. On September 14, TCEQ issued a Response to Comments (RTC), and gave until October 15th for persons to reply to the RTC and request a Contested Case Hearing (CCH) with Affected Party (AP) status. Over 100 unique individuals made these requests by the deadline. TCEQ Commissioners then gave the Executive Director of TCEQ (ED), OPIC and the Applicant (VCM) until November 19 to respond. TCEQ and VCM responded with arbitrary and capricious 1-mile radius limitations, thus identifying only eight (8) unique parties as affected persons out of over 100 people who filed. OPIC expanded their arbitrary radius to 2-miles from the crusher, thus adding an additional 39 persons (47 in all). As such, TCEQ and Vulcan only named 5% of the filers to be affected parties, while OPIC named less than approximately 45%. When we contacted OPIC to understand the ‘how and why’ these arbitrary radius’ were selected without any supporting law, code, enactment or scientific data, the response was, “these radius selections are historical agency decisions and a matter of custom.”
So, while Comal County citizens are required to provide ‘burden of proof’ as to why they may be an “affected party” based on facts of law, the TECQ, Vulcan, and OPIC appear to not to have to follow suit! See 30 TAC 55.203 (2)… distance restrictions or other limitations imposed by law on the affected interest;
By December 3 @ 5 p.m., those individuals not ‘recommended’ as affected party by TCEQ, Vulcan or OPIC, had to file a ‘reply brief’ again proving by fact of law as to why they should be named an ‘affected party”. These ‘reply briefs’ will be reviewed and “affected party” status’ will be determined by TCEQ Commissioners and released at their December 12 Public Meeting.
On this date, the TCEQ Commissioners will: 1.) Determine whether the permit application should be referred as a Contested Case Hearing to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH); 2.) Determine those who will be named ‘affected parties”; and 3.) Determine which issues SOAH should consider. At present, the TCEQ ED has recommended 20 distinct issues to be referred to SOAH.
On 12/12/18, Friends of Dry Comal Creek/Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry concerned citizens will be carpooling from Walmart (IH35 @ Walnut St in New Braunfels) to the TCEQ campus. We will be leaving at 7:30 a.m. For those who do not wish to carpool or drive, we have arranged for a 15-passenger bus to take persons to the TCEQ campus for $45 per person. For this bus to make the trip, we must have a minimum of 8 prepaid persons. If you are interested in the bus, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.