Fraser, Advisory Panel Question Officials on Rock Crushers
AUSTIN -- State Senator Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, and members of the Advisory Committee on Rock Crushers and Quarries questioned state agency officials for more than four today on the process of issuing permits for rock crushing operations.
Many of the questions focused on the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality's lack of air quality monitoring, the lack of state regulations for blasting operations, the potential impact to water quality, and the lack of notification given to county and local officials when a rock crushing company applies for a state permit.
"This was only the first hearing, but I believe we've begun to identify some potential deficiencies in the permitting process," Fraser said. "Clearly, there are some areas that need tightening, and some things we can do to ensure that the public has a stronger voice in the process."
Fraser, who chairs the committee, said one of his goals is to refine the permitting process to ensure that rock crushing facilities operate in the least intrusive manner to the communities in which they operate -- without putting an undue economic burden on the industry.
"Another important area I think we ought to examine is the public's right to appeal some of the permitting decisions, especially when you start having multiple sites in a fairly concentrated area," he said.
In addition to the TCEQ, the committee heard testimony from the Texas Department of Transportation, the Lower Colorado River Authority and the Texas Railroad Commission, the latter of which regulates blasting conducted for coal mining operations.
The nine-member committee was appointed by Gov. Rick Perry by executive order last year.
Fraser became heavily involved in the issue of rock crusher permits more than two years ago after Burnet County citizens objected to a proposed rock crusher and quarry operation south of the Burnet city limits. Burnet County has an abundance of limestone deposits and is a prime target for quarry and rock crusher operations.
Under current state law, proposed rock crushing operations need only to demonstrate that air quality in the surrounding area will not be impacted. Fraser said the committee will examine whether other factors, such as noise, blasting operations, increased truck traffic on local highways, the impact on water quality and land reclamation, should be added to the permitting process.
The advisory committee comprises six members of the Texas Legislature and three public members.
In addition to Fraser, the following legislators serve on the committee: Senators Kenneth Armbrister, D-Victoria and Frank Madla, D-San Antonio; state Representatives Dennis Bonnen, R-Angleton; Byron Cook, R-Corsicana; and Edmund Kuempel, R-Seguin.
The three public members of the committee are Burnet County Commissioner James Oakley; John V. Lattimore, president and CEO of Lattimore Properties; and John R. Weisman, president of Hunter Industries, Inc.
Under Executive Order RP-22 issued by the governor, the committee is charged with studying "the authority of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to consider all appropriate issues in permitting and regulating rock crushers, including rock crushers operating in association with quarries."
The committee, after conducting a series of public hearings, will submit a report, including recommendations for changes to the permitting laws, to the governor and Legislature no later than December 31, 2004.