The contested case hearing to determine what action the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality should take on the air quality permit application to build a quarry between Bulverde and New Braunfels kicks off Monday morning.
The hearing is the next step in the legal battle over the construction of a proposed 1,500-acre limestone-mining quarry and rock crushing plant that would be located at Highway 46 and FM 3009.
The hearing is set for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. A ruling decision will not have to be made by a judge from the State Office of Administrative Hearings until Sept. 3.
“So this, basically she will make a decision and say to TCEQ — ‘You need to deny this permit, because it wasn’t fully vetted,’ … or, ‘You’re good to go, you can approve it as is,’ … or she could say, ‘Well we need to have additional restrictions added,’ said David Drewa, a representative from the Friends of Dry Comal Creek — a group against the quarry’s construction.
Similar to a civil trial, the hearing conducted by SOAH will allow both Vulcan and contesting groups to present expert testimony and opposing legal arguments.
“We also feel that the fact that Vulcan continues to hide information and is not disclosing all of their core sample data, that makes us feel good,” Drewa said. “So yeah, we’ll be presenting a lot of data, a lot of evidence that we think will validate our concerns.”
In May, Friends of Dry Comal Creek and Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry filed a motion for Vulcan to disclose additional core sample data, which Drewa said reveals the amount of carcinogens in the rock to be crushed.
The motion was denied.
Vulcan has cherry-picked a sample with low carcinogen yields out of what was likely dozens of core samples, said Jeff Ray, a member of another opposing group, the Harrison Ranch Group.
“In a draft application permit, what they represented is that the amount of carcinogen type of content like crystalline silicon was only 0.2% in their sample,” Ray said.
Harrison Ranch Group decided to fund their own core sample and analysis just 50-feet from where Vulcan took one of their core samples, Ray said.
“One of the affected parties that is in our group — there’s a couple by the name of Mike and Terry Olson — their home borders that property, so we were able to get within 50 feet where Vulcan took one of their core samples — you can see it where they took their sample,” Ray said.
“What our sample showed, it’s 3.5 times to 15 times more carcinogens than what Vulcan’s representing,” Ray said. “Our attorney presented to the judge yesterday, said, ‘We’ve got evidence’ … the judge has not ruled on whether or not — she has not denied it, she has not allowed it in, she is going to be ruling on that on Monday.”
The reason for a late submission is the data only got back to the group Wednesday, Ray said.
“So we tried to get their core sample material to be able to run our own tests against it, we tried to get their core sample data and they claimed trade secret,” Ray said. “So we had to go out and find a firm, a professional firm, a reputable firm to do it.”
Drewa said opponents to the quarry “are just looking for some common sense.”
“Currently, no air quality monitoring is required as part of the permit. No water usage watering is required as part of the permit,” Drewa said. “There’s no rules or regulations and restrictions at all when it comes to blasting or mining activities, so we’re just looking for some common sense protections for the people living in the area.”
Vulcan spokesman Scott Burnham said Vulcan operates one of the most regulated industries in the country.
“We have presented a responsible plan for this site that demonstrates we’re committed to Comal County and doing things the right way,” Burnham said. “We look forward to the next steps in the process and providing SOAH the information it needs to make an informed decision.”
The hearing will begin at 9 a.m. in the William P. Clements Office Building on the fourth floor, located at 300 West 15th Street in Austin.