Legislative Goals Re: Sand Mining

  1. Establish a water quality district on the San Jacinto like the John Graves District on the Brazos.
    • Key Provision #1: Moves mining outside the 100-year flood plain as permits come up for renewal.
    • Why? Mining in floodway can accelerate sedimentation far above the natural rate. Sediment accumulations form dams that block river and contribute to flooding.
    • Key Provision #2: Establishes performance bonds to ensure reclamation.
    • Why? Some miners walk away from mines before reclamation, creating eyesores and safety hazards that discourage development in surrounding communities.
  2. Put teeth in TCEQ fines.
    • Key Provision: Increases fines to the point where they actually discourage negative practices.
    • Why? Current fines are slap on wrist. Average fine for last 7 years was about $800. Has not cleaned up industry.
  3. Bring best management practices for sand mining in Texas up to the standards in the rest of the country and the world.
    • Key Provisions:
      1. Locate mines outside of floodways. (Most important)
      2. Establish performance bonds to cover the cost of cleanup.
      3. Increase the width of dikes.
      4. Decrease the slope of dikes.
      5. Control erosion with vegetation.
      6. Replant areas not actively being mined.
      7. Avoid clearing areas that will not soon be mined.
      8. Protect stockpiles from flooding.
      9. Mine only above the thalweg (deepest part of the river).
      10. Establish performance bonds to guarantee remediation of breaches and/or repurposing of mined areas once mining is complete
    • Why? The practices where we lag the rest of the world caused the most damage during Harvey.

Fact Sheets/Background

Legislation Introduced in 2021

HB4478: Reclamation and Performance Bonds

Dan Huberty from the Lake Houston Area introduced HB4478 which addresses abandonment of sand mines. Many miners simply walk away from mines leaving abandoned, rusting equipment in place and dangerous conditions. Huberty’s bill would require mines to file a reclamation plan before they start mining and also post a bond ensuring they actually execute the plan. Currently, mines are required to file a plan, but there is no requirement in Texas to execute it. Miners can simply walk away from mines after they extract the last ounce of sand. That can leave scars on the landscape, degrade water quality, and threaten public safety.

HB767: Best Practices

Huberty also introduced HB767, a bill that would require the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to establish and publish best management practices for sand mining. However, it does not require sand mines to follow the practices. While that’s disappointing, it could bring heat to operations that don’t follow the guidelines. This bill has already been referred to the Environmental Regulation  Committee where it died in the 2019 session.

HB4341: Changes Responsibility for Oversight

Representative Kyle Biederman from Fredericksburg introduced HB4341, a bill that would transfer regulation of aggregate production operations from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to the Texas Railroad Commission (TRRC). The bill gives the Railroad Commission the right to conduct unannounced inspections to ensure compliance with water and air quality regulations. Biederman’s bill also mandates reclamation of mines, but includes more specifics than Huberty’s. Finally, it provides criminal penalties for people who knowingly and willfully violate conditions of their permits. The big news: transfer of oversight responsibility from the TCEQ to TRRC. If it passes, it will be a resounding vote of “no confidence” in the job that the TCEQ has been doing in regulating sand mines.

HB2422: Limiting Location of Mines

Representative Erin Zwiener from Kyle introduced HB2422. Her bill applies to counties with a population of 500,000 or more. It would allow county commissioners to prohibit the construction or expansion of an aggregate production operation at a location less than one mile from a residence, school, place of worship, hospital, or land platted for residential development. The bill would also allow commissioners to establish conditions for the construction or expansion of mines elsewhere in the county.

HB291: Reclamation and Performance Bonds

Representative Andrew Murr from Kerrville introduced HB291. It also focuses on reclamation of mines. It would require the grading of banks, revegetation, and removal of equipment upon completion of mining. The bill would also require operators to reclaim mines in stages as extraction activities on different parts cease. It would give miners a deadline for reclamation, too: six months. Finally, it would require a performance bond equal to $2,500 for each acre affected by extraction activities. Upon completion of reclamation activities, the TCEQ would release the performance bond. Cities and counties would have the right to waive the reclamation requirement if reclamation conflicts with proposed future uses of the land.

Abandoned dredge left at abandoned Texas Concrete Sand & Gravel Mine in Plum Grove on San Jacinto East Fork. Photographed 3/3/2021
HB1544: APO Taxation

Representative Ryan Guillen from Rio Grande City introduced HB1544. It addresses the tax classification of land used for sand mining. The language is confusing and an analysis of the bill has not yet been submitted. However, it appears to state that sand mine, once it meets requirements for reclamation, may revert to a property tax rate associated with open space, such as agriculture. The bill lays out some unique requirements for reclamation not discussed in the other bills here. While this seems to give sand miners a positive incentive to restore land, I’m not sure how much. In Montgomery County, the tax appraiser routinely grants ag exemptions to land used for sand mining.

HB1912/SB1209: Permit Requirements

HB1912 filed by Representative Terry Wilson of Georgetown establishes additional permit requirements for aggregate production operations. They affect air quality, light pollution, noise, blasting, dust, and other operational issues identified by the House Interim Committee on APOs back in January.

State Senator Charles Schwertner from Bryan introduced SB1209. It is an identical companion bill to HB1912. Companion bills increase the chance of passage by broadening the base of support in both houses.

Posts About Legislative Needs

2021 Report Card on Texas Flood-Issue Legislation To Date

With the Texas legislature days away from adjournment, it’s time to see how flood-related legislation fared. Out of the 20 bills listed below, one has a chance of turning into law. Still Has a Chance HB 531 – Floodplain Disclosure This bill by Armando Walle of Houston relates to floodplain disclosure for leased dwellings. It […]

State Capitol Building of Texas

Environmental Regulation Committee Taking Public Comments on Three APO Bills

The Environmental Regulation Committee of the Texas House of Representatives will hear public testimony on three bills concerning sand mines/aggregate production operations on Monday, April 19, 2021. You don’t need to go all the way to Austin to testify. You can leave your comments on the Committee’s website. Just remember, there’s a 5000 character limit. […]

Rogers Gully Mouth Bar

How to Support House Bill 2525 and Additional Dredging for Lake Houston Area

State Representative Dan Huberty has introduced House Bill 2525. It would create a Lake Houston Dredging and Maintenance District within Harris County. That would include the headwaters of the lake on the East and West Forks of the San Jacinto. The District would have the power to remove sediment and debris on an ongoing basis […]

New Legislation that Could Affect Lake Houston Area Flood Control

New legislation has been introduced in the 87th Texas Legislature that could affect the future of Lake Houston Area flood control. Here is a list that shows the current status of key bills. It includes a high-level summary, plus links to the text of the bills, and their authors. If you wish to testify on […]

Proposed New Law Mandates Flooding Disclosure to Renters

HB531 passed the Texas House of Representatives today. 119 voted Yea, 27 Nay and 2 voted present. Before it can become law, it still needs to pass the Senate and then the Governor must sign it. Background and Purpose Some feel that renters in areas susceptible to flooding may be unaware of that risk. Although […]

Support Creation of Dredging District to Reduce Floods, Improve Lake Capacity

In the 2021 Legislation session, State Rep. Dan Huberty introduced HB2525, a bill to create a Dredging and Maintenance District for Lake Houston. Senator Brandon Creighton introduced an identical companion bill in the senate, SB1892. It deserves the support of everyone in the Houston region who depends on the lake for water as well as […]

Kingwood Greens Evacuation During Harvey by Jay Muscat

Rep. Metcalf Introduces Bills to Deny Downstream Representation on SJRA Board

Texas State Representative Will Metcalf from Conroe has introduced two bills in the 87th Legislature that would affect the composition of the San Jacinto River Authority (SJRA) Board. The two bills have major differences. One calls for the election of Board members. In case that fails, the other recommends how the Governor should appoint directors. […]

Eight Bills Introduced in Texas Legislature This Year Affect Sand Mines

Yesterday was the last day for lawmakers to file bills for the 87th Texas legislative session. Eight bills have been introduced to curb abuses of aggregate production operations, which include sand mines. Five address reclamation of mines in various ways. Huberty’s HB4478: Reclamation and Performance Bonds Dan Huberty from the Lake Houston Area introduced HB4478 […]