Representatives from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), Slick Machines, Somervell County and Erath County gathered at the Glen Rose Junior High School auditorium to hear formal comments regarding the air quality permit application for a rock crushing operation near Chalk Mountain.
Lindsey Renfro, regulatory permitting manager for Hill Country Environmental, Inc., spoke on behalf of Tommy Davis, owner of Slick Machines.
She opened the discussion and said the application is not for a new air quality permit, just a change of location. The operation is currently licensed in Eastland County at 100 tons per hour.
TCEQ Staff Attorney Erin Selvera responded to questions raised about why responses to comments filed at the Oct. 2008 public meeting had not been received yet.
“Part of our process is to wait until the public comment is closed,” Selvera said.
She added that the public comment period would end after all formal comments had been received at the conclusion of the meeting. They would then prepare the Response to Comments documents in approximately 60 days.
Another 30-day period would be allowed to request another hearing.
Darrell Best, Somervell County resident, was the first citizen to address the panel during the informal portion of the meeting.
He pointed out that the high school auditorium was originally booked for the meeting on March 5 but notice was not given until March 18. Then the venue location was changed at the last minute and the two local papers did not have time to publish the change.
Bridget Bohae, from the TCEQ Office of Public Assistance, apologized for the confusion.
“We asked them (the applicant) to secure the location,” Bohae said.
She said they asked the applicant to look at schools specifically because they felt an auditorium would accommodate more people then the Somervell County Citizen’s Center, where the meeting was held last time.
Best also asked about documentation that was to be filed with the application and displayed at the Somervell County Library.
“A complete application has never been there,” Best said.
He said his attorneys were told that a resident removed the documents from the library.
Selvera said in previous cases, viewers or librarians have misplaced paperwork.
“It happens,” Selvera said. “But Hill Country represented to TCEQ that a complete copy had been made available.”
Larry Buller, also with the TCEQ, said a copy of his complete file had been given to the team of law students assigned to help county residents in their fight to save Chalk Mountain.
Best said the residents did win stay of execution after Tuesday’s meeting, which extended the public comment period by another 30 days.
“They agreed that as we have not received a full, complete application and as the county library has never had all of the documents they said were supposed to be at the library that they would have a complete application, attachments and documentation set put at the Library,” Best said. “Once an affidavit is made by Hill Country Environmental to the TCEQ, our 30 day clock begins to run again where we can ask questions based on the information provided.”
Best continued his line of questioning at the meeting by asking about the second notice published in the Reporter on Jan. 15. The draft permit was issued on Dec. 1, 44 days before the notice.
TCEQ rules state the notice must be published in 33 calendar days, which would have been on Jan. 2.
“The letter says we may also take other actions,” Buller said, adding that the letter never stipulates was those action could be or any penalties for not complying with the 33-day rule.
Best then asked why the permit was ruled administratively complete when it was missing required documents.
“How can it be administratively complete when it has been demonstrated to be incomplete?” Best asked.
Selvera responded that the process was not complete and the application still needed to go through a technical review.
Best then asked why the TCEQ would proceed when they and the applicant were notified by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife (USF&W) on Sept. 5 that the Golden-cheek Warbler, an endangered species, most likely frequented the property.
Selvera said that the Endangered Species Act was beyond the scope of their jurisdiction and they focused on the U.S. and Texas Clean Air acts.
She added that even if Slick Machines was granted an air quality permit, that didn’t mean they would be able to use it if USF&W did determine the property served as a habitat for any endangered species.
“Just because they have it doesn’t mean they would be able to use it,” Selvera said. “We are required to issue it if the application complies with TCEQ rules and regulations.”
Meredith Riggs, a University of Texas at Austin law student, continued the questioning and asked how Davis planned to keep emissions down.
Michael Gould with the TCEQ said applicants are required by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to keep emissions down by a minimum of 70 percent.
They use the Best Available Control Technology (BACT) and Gould said generally the applicant decides which BACT method to use.
Riggs asked Davis if he would consider using enclosures to keep emissions down if the community asked him to.
“Slick Machines plans to use waterspray,” Renfro said. “100 tons per hour is very low in comparison.”
Renfro said they would also use water to keep dust down on the roads, which are not actually part of the facility according to TCEQ. She was not sure how much water would be used in daily operations.
The application states that Slick Machines will produce approximately 75,000 tons per year of crushed rock. Riggs asked how Davis would monitor production.
Renfro said she had not seen Davis’ equipment but knew there were several ways to weigh loads. Riggs addressed Davis specifically, but he said he would not answer any questions.
Aaron Hertz with Hill Country said the company would use a Phoenix Inertia impact crusher rated at 125 tons per hour.
Hertz answered questions about monitoring visible emissions.
He said “Method 9” smoke test would be used to read opacity, which means a trained individual will judge opacity percentages with their eyes. He said trained opacity readers must be certified at smoke school every six months.
Riggs also asked if Davis would be willing to release his blasting schedule so nearby residents would not be alarmed by the vibrations or noise. Renfro responded that notice would not be given.
“Why not?” asked Riggs.
“Because it’s not required,” Renfro responded.
Although Renfro said she did not know how many acres would be mined or where the crusher would operate specifically, TCEQ said the crusher must be a minimum of 200 feet from each property line.
Buller said the distance was determined based on a model for a facility twice the size of Slick Machines and under older, more conservative regulations.
Attempts to contact Larry Parham, who owns the property on Highway 67 were the proposed rock crusher would operate, were unsuccessful as of press time.
Anyone who would like to submit comments may do so via the Internet at www5.tceq.state.tx.us/ecmnts.index.cfm. Comments can also be faxed to (512) 239-3311.
Mail written comment s to:
Office of the Chief Clerk
MC: 105 TCEQ
PO BOX 13087
Austin, TX 78711-3087
All correspondence should reference air quality permit number 82199L002.