STAFF WRITER CONNIE SWINNEY
MARBLE FALLS — Mining industry opponents have turned up the heat with a petition calling for a statewide moratorium on quarry permits as an embattled rock crushing operation put its 518-acre proposed site up for sale.
As of April 20, the land just off Texas 71 southwest of the U.S. 281 intersection in southern Burnet County was listed as “for sale” by Austin-based Oberg Properties.
Several hundred acres of the land has been targeted for annexation by the city of Marble Falls after a series of public protests, meetings with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, and calls for withdrawal of Asphalt Inc.’s state air quality permit. The permit allows Asphalt Inc. to build a rock crushing facility on the property.
“The city’s diligence and fast action to proceed with the annexation process was a big part of (the pressure on the mining operation). The city of Horseshoe Bay pulled everything inside their extra-territorial jurisdiction to help prevent something like this,” said Grant Dean of the Texas Environmental Protection Coalition. “The hospital was certainly involved. Baylor Scott and White (at the northwest corner of the intersection) is 100 percent behind us.”
Residents, businesses, and civic leaders were also concerned about a proposed quarry going in at that location.
Supporters and lobbyists for the industry contend that mining is critical for upgrading infrastructure such as roads and commercial and residential development as well as employs tens of thousands of people.
As groups fought against the planned rock crusher and quarry operation south of Marble Falls for several months, similar protests in Comal and Kendall counties also fueled momentum for the opposition to the expansion or construction of such facilities.
“We do have a big victory, but the war is far from over,” Dean said.
The Texas Environmental Protection Coalition recently broadened its scope — changing its name from the Highland Lakes Clean Air Coalition — to its current moniker.
In early April, TEPC unveiled its mission and a new website and began a campaign to petition state leaders regarding their concerns.
As a newly formed nonprofit, members joined the fight with New Braunfels-area residents against Vulcan Materials, which planned a mining operation on 1,500 acres on Texas 46, and Boerne-area residents who pushed back against a planned concrete batch plant, also on Texas 46.
“We’re all doing the same exact thing. At every meeting, we’re all worried about our health, the property values, the traffic … the permitting practices,” Dean said. “Our goal now is to open people’s eyes around the state.”
On April 19, at a contentious TCEQ meeting in Boerne, environmental groups, landowners, residents, and business owners, including operators of a nearby Montessori school, addressed commission representatives about Vulcan’s permit request.
At that time, TEPC members announced their steps forward in the fight against the mining industry and staged a walkout.
“We’re asking for a moratorium on permits statewide until there’s a complete review by TCEQ by an outside, independent agency,” Dean said. “When the citizens of our state are in conflict with the aggregate companies, we have absolutely no say in the issuances of permits.”
A moratorium is a temporary halt on certain activities, which in the state of Texas, are typically requested and lifted by state lawmakers.
“We need to reign these guys (in) until they can look at this and do what they can to make changes,” Dean said.
Nolan Wheeler, the agent listed on the property sale sign of the 518-acre site, said he could not comment on the motivation or reason for the decision to sell the land.