Rock Crushers Committee Examines Regulation of Quarries
The Advisory Committee on Rock Crushers and Quarries is examining how quarries in Texas should be regulated so that their operations interfere as little as possible with nearby residences. At a meeting today, Wednesday, June 30, 2004, the committee discussed what regulations are currently in place.
Tom Ransdell of the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association was the first witness, called to give the committee background on the industry. He described the various stone products that his members quarry and told the committee that the state is the leading producer and consumer of cement. He said that current regulations were sufficient.
Ray Perryman of the Perryman Group testified for the Association as well, saying that a new proposed facility in Burnet County would create about 450 jobs, about five percent of the total employment in the county. Committee Chairman Troy Fraser then asked if that was the case, why were the city, county and many local residents opposed to the facility. The Chairman then said that such a facility could actually cause the quality of life to deteriorate in Burnet County and asked Perryman if he has considered such factors in his study. The witness replied that he had not specifically, but that the state would indeed need the product in coming years. Senator Fraser said the issue of whether crushers and quarries discourage other economic development is exactly what this committee is considering.
Robert Lanham of the Associated General Contractors said that the highway construction industry needed the products of the quarry industry and that further regulations would cause the cost of new construction to rise. He told the committee that TCEQ didn't have adequate resources to police those operations not operating within state law.
Senator Craig Estes was sitting in with the committee today, and said he experienced the same frustration as had his constituents when trying to get information about pollution in the Brazos River. "Why did it take action by the Attorney of General to shut down one of these irresponsible rock mining operations...Where was the TCEQ?" He questioned whether new legislation was needed, or whether the agencies charged with monitoring the operations need to do a better job. "I do believe that business and nature should be able to coexist and one should not be allowed to flourish at the expense of the other."
Tony Goodwin, from the Brazos River Conservation Coalition, said that the recent deterioration on the quality of the river water was directly attributable to rock mining operations in the area which are causing hard clay to be washed into the Brazos. "The river right now is a mess, it looks like butterscotch pudding...or worse."
TCEQ Chairman Kathleen White finished the day's invited testimony. She said that her agency did indeed need to focus inspections on quarries that were near rivers and do better monitoring as to how sediment flows into rivers. Chairman Fraser said that Governor Rick Perry had told him this morning that TCEQ needs fewer Austin employees and more in the field as inspectors, and that he agreed with the governor. Public testimony followed.
The Advisory Committee on Rock Crushers and Quarries is chaired by Senator Troy Fraser. Members include Senators Ken Armbrister, Frank Madla, Representatives Dennis Bonnen, Byron Cook and Edmund Keumpel. Also on the commission are County Commissioner James Oakley of Burnet County, Mr. John Lattimore, Jr., and Mr. John Weisman. The committee was to recess subject to call of the chair.