Slick Machines’ controversial plan to mine rock on Chalk Mountain has taken another step forward.

    The executive director of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state agency charged with reducing and preventing pollution, decided late last month that Slick Machines’ permit application “meets the requirements of applicable law.”

    The decision does not authorize construction or operation of any proposed facilities, TCEQ said in its decision. Commissioners will consider it at a regularly scheduled public meeting before any action will be taken.

    A request for a contested case hearing or reconsideration of the executive director’s decision must be received by April 22.

    Tommy Davis’ Slick Machines, based in Brownwood, has applied to TCEQ for change of location permit. It would authorize him to move the location of a previously permitted portable rock crusher from Desdemona west of Stephenville to the Chalk Mountain off U.S. 67.

    The facility will have one crusher, one screen, conveyors and stockpiles. If it receives the permit, the Chalk Mountain operation could run five hours a day, five days a week and 30 weeks of the year for a total of 750 hours. Because the facility will emit air contaminants, it must get an air quality permit from the commission under the Texas Clean Air Act.

    TCEQ also responded hundreds of comments from residents in Somervell County and beyond. Among them was a letter from John Graves, the Glen Rose-based author of Goodbye to a River, Hard Scrabble and From a Limestone Ledge, and an advocate for saving the natural beauty and wildness of Texas.

    The executive director’s decision “moves the process forward,” said Darrell Best, who has been fighting against the permit with the “Save Chalk Mountain” movement.

    “I still think we have substantive points of law on our side, not the least of which are threats to endangered species,” Best said. “When you knock down trees, you knock down habitat.”

    Besides destroying habit, permit opponents contend that the rock-crushing operation would emit particulate matter that would be harmful to the federally endangered Golden-cheeked Warbler and Black-capped Vireo.

    Dr. Patrick Condy, executive director of Fossil Rim Wildlife Center, also has spoken at hearings and written to TCEQ about the center’s work to preserve the Attwater Prairie Chicken, Texas’ most threatened bird species. The fragile bird is easily stressed to prone to many kinds of illnesses and infections brought about by environmental pollutants and other factors.

    Elected officials who sent comments to TCEQ were U.S. Rep. Chet Edwards, D-Waco, State Sen. Kip Averitt, State Rep. Sid Miller, State Rep. Beverly Woolley and Somervell County commissioners James Barnard, Zac Cummings, Mike Ford and Lloyd Wirt.