Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asked Texas’ environmental agency April 16 to immediately stop issuing permits for cement production plants until state lawmakers can weigh in during the 2025 legislative session.

In a letter to Jon Niermann, who chairs the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Patrick cited concerns about a proposed 600-acre cement kiln in Grayson County, north of Dallas.

“There is simply too much risk to the county and its citizens” to approve the project, Patrick wrote.

“Economic development is key to Texas’ future,” he continued. “It is not yet clear that permanent cement production plants located in close proximity to Texas communities further that mission.”

What you need to know

Patrick said he met with Sherman residents April 15 who were “unanimously opposed” to permitting the plant proposed by Black Mountain Cement. Residents are concerned about the cement plant’s impact on local water quality and disagree with a TCEQ analysis that it will not affect air quality, according to the letter.

He said no more permanent cement plant permits should be approved until the Legislature can “provide guidance on the permanent cement production plant permitting process and the location of new plants.” The 89th legislative session begins in January.

“When determining whether to grant an air permit, TCEQ reviews air permit applications to ensure all state and federal regulatory requirements are met and emissions associated with the plant will be protective of human health and the environment,” TCEQ spokesperson Victoria Cann said in a statement to Community Impact. “This review includes an assessment of the best emissions controls for the facility and an evaluation of potential impacts from the proposed facility using health-based air quality standards.”

Cann said the TCEQ could not comment directly on pending permit applications.

What they’re saying

Across the state, Texans have voiced similar concerns about concrete batch plants. Cement is made of limestone, clay and other materials. When mixed with water, sand and gravel, it becomes concrete.

During an April 15 meeting, north Fort Worth residents and officials said a concrete batch plant proposed by TOR Texas could damage people’s health, cause increased traffic and noise, and pose safety concerns for students at nearby schools.

“We can do better than what is currently proposed, [which is] surrounded by Northwest ISD and Keller ISD schools, preschools, and day cares,” said Alan Blaylock, Fort Worth District 10 council member.

Patrick’s letter does not mention concrete plants.

More details

In January, TCEQ announced new permit requirements for concrete batch plants, including increasing buffer zones between communities and the plants, and lowering how much material plants can produce annually. Plants must also provide more access for people with limited English proficiency, according to Harris County Attorney Christian Menefee.

“I’m cautiously optimistic about the TCEQ’s new concrete permit [rules]. ... But there is more that needs to be done to combat the concrete pollution that is forced upon our most vulnerable communities. The updated permit gives plants currently operating a 10-year window to continue polluting under junk standards,” Menefee said in a news release.

In Grayson County, Patrick said a cement plant could deter businesses from moving to the area and harm existing companies, such as semiconductor manufacturer GlobalWafers.

“The Grayson County economy could lose billions of dollars of economic activity and hundreds, and potentially, thousands of high-paying jobs,” he wrote. “This beautiful area and its robust economy could spiral downward and never recover.”