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Court ruling revives plans for proposed quarry between Bulverde and New Braunfels

Vulcan quarry at Loop 1604 and U.S. 281 in San Antonio.jpg
Courtesy of Friends of Dry Comal Creek and Stop Vulcan 3009 Quarry
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A quarry owned by Vulcan Materials. A proposed Vulcan quarry off FM 3009 would cover 1,500 acres.

A court ruling on Monday effectively restores a state air quality permit to the proposed Vulcan Materials quarry off FM 3009, according to opponents who have been fighting against the quarry since 2017.

The Third Court of Appeals reversed a March 2021 ruling by State District Judge Maya Guerra Gamble that vacated the approval of an air quality permit for a rock crusher at the planned site by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

Gamble sided with members of Friends of Dry Comal Creek and Stop Vulcan 3009 Quarry, who raised environmental concerns over the proposed 1,500 acre quarry between New Braunfels and Bulverde, which would sit near residential areas with 15,000 people.

They argued Vulcan's contamination modeling data submitted to the TCEQ to win the permit is flawed and has yet to be shared publicly, claiming a "trade secret excuse."

In a statement, David Drewa, director of communications for Stop 3009 Vulcan Quarry and Preserve Our Hill Country Environment, said that the “decision is wrong — and a slap in the face to the thousands of concerned citizens in Comal County who have worked tirelessly over the past five years fighting to protect our families, our natural resources, and our beautiful Texas Hill Country from pollution generated by an out-of-state corporation.”

He added: “The panel showed no regard for relevant legal issues raised by Texans living and working in the area, and essentially concluded: Vulcan’s claims seem fine, and we trust them; no need to verify — or even see — the underlying data.”

Opponents also said Vulcan’s proposed open-pit limestone mining operation would stretch across nearly three miles of the environmentally sensitive Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, which is the primary water supply for over two million people, including the cities of San Antonio and New Braunfels.

Neighbors are concerned about air pollution, water supply and quality, truck traffic, destruction of caves, and decreased property values that could result from the location of this heavy industrial facility, according to Drewa.

The Thursday opinion was authored by an unelected, retired judge: J. Woodfin Jones, sitting “by assignment.” Jones is not one of the current six elected judges on the Texas Third Court of Appeals, Drewa said.

Jones repeatedly claimed that expected contamination levels based on the data submitted by Vulcan are so low that no further investigation is needed. However, the air permit would allow Vulcan’s rock crusher to emit over 95,000 pounds of particulate matter, nitrogen oxide, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and VOCs into the air annually, Drewa added.

Jones also opined that while there is a chance Vulcan’s crystalline silica emissions would exceed established pollution limits, Vulcan need not disclose the sample data used to run its air pollution modeling, opponents said.

Vulcan Materials did not respond to TPR's request for comment.

Drew said they are weighing their legal options, including taking their arguments before the Texas Supreme Court.

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Brian Kirkpatrick can be reached at brian@tpr.org and on Twitter at @TPRBrian