After two public comment periods in 2017 and 2018, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality (TCEQ) turned the case over to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) which will conduct the proceedings.
SOAH Judge Rebecca Smith held the March 6 hearing and finalized the list of affected parties, which includes Comal ISD, Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry, the Smithson Heritage Valley Oaks POA, and others. The case must be determined within 6 months.
“The administrative law judge will make recommendations to the commissioners of the TCEQ for their consideration in approving or denying the permit application,” Andrew Keese, public relations specialist at TCEQ said.
Because the rock-crushing machinery is portable and could potentially be transported to different areas within the quarry’s land, many residents were concerned that their homes may be affected, even though they were outside of the affected area indicated in Vulcan’s proposed map. Smith allowed residents up to five miles away to be included in the case.
Those that spoke at the hearing brought up concerns about air quality and dusty winds; local roads and increased traffic; the effects on animals from earth tremors during quarry blasts; and water quality and conservation, as the quarry is located on the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers.
Chris Hopmann, spokesman for the Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry group, said the quarry may even bring down home values in the surrounding area as well.
“This is a beautiful property,” Hopmann said. “And there are people with homes and businesses out here who are going to be hurt by this.”
Vulcan Construction Materials says rock will only be extracted from above the water table, and the water they use will be recycled.
Of the 1,500 acres of Vulcan property, they say 60 percent will be used for mining while the remaining 600 acres will be saved for setbacks, non-mining use, and natural landscape.
Though based in Alabama, Vulcan operates 15 quarries throughout Texas, and has been mining in the San Antonio area since the 1970s. Spokesman Scott Burnham said the company is aware of the requirements to operate in Texas.
“We operate in one of the most regulated industries in the country,” he said. “For more than a year, we’ve been listening and working with the community on developing a safe and responsible plan.”
When Smith makes a recommendation to TCEQ at the end of the contested case, Hopmann said it is likely that TCEQ will uphold that opinion, though there have been instances in the past when they have overruled it. Hopmann said he would expect to see either side of the case appeal, depending on the outcome.