Published in March 22 New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung (subscription required)
I’m encouraged to hear the recent news that Commissioner Scott Haag plans to put forth a resolution opposing the proposed Comal County Vulcan quarry at the March 22 meeting of Commissioners Court.
A properly written resolution should request a Contested Case Hearing on TCEQ air quality permit application number 147392L001, and remind TCEQ that they are required to “give maximum consideration to local government’s recommendations” as specified in Section 382.112 of the Texas Health and Safety Code.
Passing a resolution with such language would provide some much-needed support to Comal County citizens and help defend them against the negative impacts of the proposed Vulcan quarry.
In September 2005, Kerr County Commissioners Court passed such a resolution opposing a similar rock-crushing facility near Center Point. Two days before the scheduled Contested Case Hearing, Wheatcraft, Inc. withdrew their application. Again in 2011, Kerr County supported their concerned citizens with an effective resolution, and again the applicant threw in the towel on their new quarry plans.
More recently, Burnet County and Kendall County formalized opposition to and requested Contested Case Hearings on proposed quarries and cement plants. While the final outcome of these cases is far from certain, it’s clear that with their elected county officials firmly and publicly behind them, the citizens of Burnet and Kendall counties have a much better shot at protecting their health, property values, and natural resources.
I realize counties don’t have much direct power through zoning or use restrictions, but the State of Texas does grant them various authorities and duties related to air, water, and public health. And while TCEQ is the agency tasked with evaluating and approving air quality permit applications, TCEQ has a poor track record of monitoring and enforcing compliance. Furthermore, ensuring Vulcan will not exceed air contamination limits will be impossible since there are no air quality monitors in Comal County.
To make matters worse, Vulcan Materials has repeatedly failed to abide by regulations and protect natural resources. While they talk a good game, in Texas alone over 80 formal complaints have been filed against Vulcan since 2002. Vulcan’s Loop 1604 plant has cited over 35 violations of air, storm water, and wastewater regulations during the past several years.
Even if Vulcan checks all of TCEQ’s boxes, this doesn’t mean they should be allowed to move forward with the project as described in the current permit application. We know from history that just because something is legal doesn’t mean it’s right.
Recently I’ve been reading my six-year-old son a series of books by Brad Meltzer—stories about ordinary people who helped change the world. Whether reading about Rosa Parks or Neil Armstrong, one theme stood out: just because something is a long shot doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try.
TCEQ’s tendency to ignore local government in the past is hardly reason to throw up the white flag immediately. It’s time for Commissioners Court to take action. Stand with the concerned citizens of Comal County who will most certainly be affected parties. Support the over 500 citizens who showed up and more than 50 people who spoke against this quarry at the recent public meeting.
Please do this by passing a meaningful resolution requesting a Contested Case Hearing and admonishing the TCEQ to give maximum consideration to our local county government.
I look forward to future action by Commissioners Court.
David A. Drewa