Surprise. Surprise. The Triple PG Sand Mine has denied all of the claims by the Texas Attorney General in the state’s lawsuit. The attorney general alleged that breaches in the mine’s dikes allowed wastewater to escape into tributaries of Lake Houston, the source of drinking water for two million people.
One Sentence Denial
When I first read the denial, its brevity shocked me – one sentence. It basically says to the attorney general “prove your case.”
I quote: “…Triple PG generally denies each and every allegation contained in Plaintiff’s Original Petition, and all amendments and supplements thereto, and demands strict proof thereof by a preponderance of the evidence.”
I called a lawyer to ask whether such brief denials were common. The answer: yes. My next question: Why?
Why the Brief Denial?
Basically, had the defendant made no reply to the claims within 20 days, it could have had a default judgement entered against it. So this blocks a default judgment. This also stops the clock, forces the Attorney General to reveal more of its case, and gives the defendant more time to develop an affirmative defense … if it has one. Triple PG can always amend its reply later.
AG Already Laid Out Evidence
The TCEQ has performed onsite inspections and overflights. The TCEQ report was made public with the AG filing. But the TCEQ isn’t the only entity investigating. So by delaying a settlement, the mine could be opening itself to additional fines. And the discovery of additional evidence.
The Mine Safety and Health Administration is also investigating the mine thanks to complaints from dozens of residents around the mine.
The AG could also amend its suit if new evidence becomes available.
In addition, numerous residents, including Tony Buzbee, candidate for the Mayor of Houston, have photographed the breaches in this mine’s dikes.
The longer they wait to settle this case, the higher per-day fines could go.
Hearing Delayed Again
The hearing scheduled for November 12 on a permanent injunction against the mine has now been rescheduled for November 25th.
When I flew over the mine on November 4, 46 days after Imelda, Triple PG was only starting to fix the second of eight breaches. The TCEQ did not even find all of those breaches because many roads within the mine had washed out when they paid their surprise visit. So delays could add to Triple PG’s woes as they also run up legal fees.
Here’s what breach #2 looked like on 11/4/2019.
The Defendant’s response also included a one sentence prayer. They prayed that all charges would be dismissed and that they would be entitled to further relief, which they did not specify. The only other thing the AG sought was a permanent injunction barring the mine from discharging wastewater. But they might seek to recover court costs if found no guilty.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 11/14/2019
807 Days after Hurricane Harvey and 56 after Imelda
The thoughts expressed in this post represent my opinions on matters of public policy and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.