STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
BURNET COUNTY — A mining industry representative has blasted environmental concerns by opponents of rock crusher permits, citing the economic benefits of aggregate materials tied to infrastructure and jobs.
In a phone interview Oct. 6, Rich Szecsy, a licensed civil engineer for the Texas Aggregate and Concrete Association, addressed efforts by the Highland Lakes Clean Air group to halt air quality permits requested by Asphalt Inc. and Collier Materials Inc. in Burnet County.
Opponents have inundated the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality with public comments and planned a second weekend of protests Oct. 8-9 at the proposed Asphalt Inc. site at the intersection U.S. 281 and CR 403.
Szecsy said the recent outcry fails to credit the mining industry with its lawful operation and lucrative impact on the state of Texas.
“Texas is the number one consuming state for concrete, aggregates, and cement,” Szecsy said. “Those material construction tracks with population growth of which Texas is adding one million people to its population per year.”
He added that the industry directly generates $8.5 billion for the state and reports $40 billion overall in economic value.
“For every $1 that’s spent on infrastructure, it generates an additional $5 of economic value for a community,” Szecsy said. “The quarry and asphalt supply are all the foundations of infrastructure.”
HLCA co-organizer Grant Dean owns Cactus Companies, a home construction company, and admits to benefiting from the fruits of mining labor.
However, he believes the county has become overwhelmed by rock-based businesses, including at least half a dozen existing mining operations in Burnet County.
“I am for property rights. I build every day. I use aggregate materials,” Dean said, “but I don’t want that aggregate coming from across the street from a brand new hospital.”
The northwest side of the proposed Asphalt Inc. property would run adjacent to and across Texas 71 from the Baylor Scott & White Medical Center-Marble Falls.
Dean believes concerns about air and water quality as well as increased truck traffic should outweigh profit.
“This is totally irresponsible. Asphalt Inc. is the only one who will benefit from this,” Dean said. “God has put us here to be good stewards of our land.
“This is not showing good stewardship,” he added.
Szecsy believes opponents should recognize those benefiting from the aggregate business activity are their friends and neighbors.
“These operations provide skilled labor opportunities within the community,” Szecsy said. “The majority of people who work there are local residents whose families depend on those jobs for their livelihood.”
The deadline to offer public comments to TCEQ has been extended from Oct. 9 to Oct. 31 — the second extension tied to public outcry.
A public meeting is scheduled for 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 26, at Lakeside Pavilion, 307 Buena Vista Drive in Marble Falls.