A company trying to put a 1,500-acre limestone quarry between New Braunfels and Bulverde, and the state agency that granted them an air quality permit, plan to appeal a recent court decision that would block their progress.
Vulcan Materials and the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality filed a notice of appeal on April 30 over a district court decision which struck down their air quality permit.
In September 2019, an Administrative Law Judge recommended the state environmental agency grant Vulcan Materials an air quality permit.
After doing so, local environmental group Stop 3009 Vulcan filed suit against TCEQ saying the evidence provided was incomplete.
In March, the 459th District Court judge struck down the TCEQ’s decision due to what they said was inaccurate evidence and hiding behind “trade secret” privilege.
TCEQ and Vulcan Materials have until June 14 to file an appeal to the Texas Third Court of Appeals. The opposition group said the intent to appeal was expected.
“We’re hopeful and optimistic that the Third Court of Appeals will uphold and affirm the district court decision,” said Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry communications director David Drewa.
“If that is true, Vulcan will not be granted their air permit and will have to go through that process again.”
TCEQ and Vulcan could not comment since TCEQ is a party in ongoing court proceedings and Vulcan was not a party in the lawsuit.
In the Courts
459th District Court Judge Maya Guerra Gamble in her ruling from March said there was not enough evidence to support the assertion that the quarry’s emissions would not affect human health.
Stop 3009 has said the permit application would allow the rock crusher to emit over 95,000 pounds of particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and other pollutants into the air annually.
Stop 3009 communications director David Drewa has previously said Vulcan’s air quality analysis did not provide enough evidence compared to the group’s own core sample of crystalline silica they did on an adjacent property.
Drewa said they believe Vulcan Materials’ core sample showed lower levels of crystalline silica, a carcinogenic pollutant, in its limestone than is accurate.
The Environmental Protection Agency is concerned with these sized particles which pollute the air.
People can inhale them through their lungs, causing adverse health issues from coughing to cancer.
As the organization waits for the appeal, they are fundraising and spreading the word about the quarry to future homeowners and people who just moved to the Hill Country area.
“Comal County is growing so quickly and there are many new people coming out to the area around the proposed quarry that are just now finding out about it after they buy a home or right before,” Drewa said. “We’re educating those people about what Vulcan plans to do with that property.”
The other main permit for the quarry is the water pollution abatement permit, since the quarry would be built over the Edwards Aquifer at State Highway 46 and Farm-to-Market Road 3009.
Once the plan is submitted, Stop3009 will look into it.
There can not be a contested case hearing over it like for the air quality permit — so the organization may have to request a public hearing involving the community and state representatives — Stop Vulcan 3009 said.
The organization of volunteer scientists, geologists and communications had its big fundraiser, the Bluebonnet Extravaganza Dinner and Auction, on April 9.
The event was sold out at 176 tickets and raised tens of thousands to pay for legal and research fees, Drewa said.
Comal ISD is a party listed in the lawsuit, and Comal ISD superintendent Andrew Kim spoke at the event and talked about the ramifications of a quarry.
“This is a fight, this is not just a handful of people who live right next to the proposed quarry,” Drewa said. “It’s an entire group, people recognize this is a big deal. It’s fifteen-hundred acres over the Edwards Aquifer and it’s not just people who live next door but the entire area and even maybe San Antonio and New Braunfels.”
Stop Vulcan 3009 has been fighting Vulcan Materials for several years, and Drewa said there is still a long way to go.
“It could be a year or two before the court of appeals hands down a decision,” Drewa said. “We’re not sure what their grounds for appeal are at this point, we have not seen the brief so we are looking forward to seeing why they think they have grounds for appeal.”