Vulcan Quarry Opponents Sue TCEQ, Appeal Air Permit Decision

AUSTIN— Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry and Friends of Dry Comal Creek filed a lawsuit against the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in Travis County District Court on Friday.

The lawsuit is the latest step in the legal appeals process and requests a judicial review of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s (TCEQ) November decision to grant an air pollution permit to Vulcan Construction Materials, LLC.

                            Source: Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry

In June 2017, Vulcan submitted an application to construct and operate a rock crushing facility and quarry on a 1500 acre former cattle ranch in Comal County, between New Braunfels and Bulverde.

Vulcan’s open pit limestone mining operation would stretch across nearly three miles of the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone.

The lawsuit is part of a prolonged battle between Vulcan and hundreds of area Hill Country neighbors and citizens groups.

In the petition, plaintiffs ask the court to reverse TCEQ’s permit approval decision and send the application back for “lawful evaluation,” citing the following failures and prejudices during the June 2019 contested case hearing:

  • Legal errors during discovery and trial
  • Capricious and arbitrary exclusion of relevant data from air pollution modeling
  • Failure to account for diesel exhaust emissions
  • Allowing TCEQ staff guidance to supersede statutory state law
  • Failing to require a case by case determination of emission reductions

During the contested case hearing, the administrative law judge allowed Vulcan to use a “trade secret” excuse to hide from both TCEQ and area residents’ key core sample data used to calculate air pollution. At the hearing, Vulcan revealed that they had since destroyed most of the core samples they obtained from the property.

Additionally, the administrative judge did not allow opponents to cross-examine Vulcan about this disputed core sample data. A separate lawsuit opposing the same permit was filed against TCEQ on Friday by Comal ISD and other area residents.

Neighbors are concerned about air pollution, 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.

But this isn’t just another “not in my backyard” issue. David Drewa, Director of Communications for Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry states, “This proposed facility should be very concerning to residents of San Antonio and New Braunfels—and all two million people who depend on the Edwards Aquifer as their primary source of drinking water.”

Jack Olivier, a Comal County geologist and member of the Texas Speleological Association, expressed concern about the location over the recharge zone: “Quarries here can act as manmade funnels into the underlying aquifers. The limestone sediment produced inside the quarry pit can get washed into the ground. The explosives used for blasting, a combination of diesel fuel and ammonium nitrate, can also be introduced inside the pits. And during flood events, pollutants can get washed in, carrying chemicals like pesticides and herbicides, and septic tank effluent.”

Drewa says that the citizen’s groups will continue to advocate for common-sense oversight and protections for the health and safety of neighboring residents and ranchers who have lived in the areas for years—and in some cases, decades. “This is not a done deal. We will continue to use every administrative and legal challenge available to defend our rights as citizens, oppose this quarry, and preserve our health, air, and water.”

Vulcan Quarry 2015 time-lapse photo | Source: Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry

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.

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