Local residents breath easy over air quality permit application retraction

by Alexandria Randolph

Highland Lakes Newspapers

 

Burnet County residents who spoke in opposition of a rock quarry air quality permit application can breath a sigh of relief at the news that the application has been withdrawn this week.

APAC-Texas, the company that operates the Oldcastle Materials Texas quarry on US 281 (formerly Capital Aggregates) applied with Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) in February to amend their current permit, authorizing modifications to the facility to increase production.

In a letter written on Monday, June 13, TCEQ Air Permits Division Director Michael Wilson said “the application has been withdrawn by request of the applicant on June 7...”

Burnet County resident Paul King, who expressed concerns about the permit amendment in a public permit hearing on May 5, is one of several who consider the withdrawal a victory.

As a member of the Texas Hill Country Property Rights Coalition, I am pleased that APAC-Texas has withdrawn the permit application to expand its quarry operations...” he said on Tuesday. “The technical experts hired by our attorney found several deficiencies in the information supporting the permit application. One of the biggest concerns was that the model used to predict the impact on the environment was only for the requested incremental production from the quarry, not the entire APAC-Texas operation or the combined impact of all quarry operations in the immediate vicinity.”

King said during the meeting that he believed the company was doing a showmanship game – amending permits on one hand while expanding multiple facilities on the other, all the while not revealing the ultimate result, which was higher emissions than TCEQ was aware of.

Other residents said they were concerned about dust on their homes and gardens, and the reliability of the models submitted by APAC-Texas to TCEQ.

Another concern that King expressed during the hearing was that due to the methods of TCEQ particle emission standards and the expense of new technologies, the rock crushing facility was not required to electronically monitor its own emissions.

...The coalition was concerned that there would be no provision for monitoring emissions and air quality in the area of the quarry,” he said. “We are not opposed to business development but we want it to be done in a way that respects the environment and preserves the quality of life that we all enjoy in the beautiful Texas Hill Country.”

In a public permit hearing on May 5, Plant Manager Brett Ballard explained the purpose of the permit amendment was a part of the company’s plan to “increase output in a more efficient way.” He assured those at the meeting the size of the plant would not change.
Joel Stanford, Air Permit Specialist for TCEQ assigned to this permit application, said the quarry desired to grow their operation from 7.7 million tons of gravel to 12 million tons per year and adding two additional rock crushers.

Neither APAC-Texas officials nor TCEQ officials could be reached for comment as of press time.

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