Tag Archive for: environmental regulation

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. See more about the bills below.

HB 767: Best Practices for Sand Mines

HB767 by Dan Huberty would require the TCEQ to establish best practices for sand mines and publish them on its website. Right now, Texas is one of the few states that doesn’t have a codified set of best practices. Granted, though, some are embodied in the terms of permits and federal laws. But the public never sees these. And many best practices common in other states are notably absent in Texas. For instance, there are no setbacks specified for sand mines from rivers in Texas. Companies can mine right up to the edge of rivers…in the floodway. Then when floods happen, dikes collapse and sediment gets washed downstream.

The Bayou Land Conservancy submitted this letter in support of HB 767. Two key points:

  • Best management practices (BMPs) would provide guidance for the industry and expectations for the community about how these facilities will be managed and the legacy they will leave.
  • BMPs would aid stakeholders in identifying which companies are interested in working with and protecting nearby communities.

HB 767 is scheduled for public hearings in Environmental Regulation on 4/19/2021. To learn more about the bill, click here. To support the bill, go to this web page and leave your comments. It’s quick and easy.

HB 291: Reclamation Plans and Performance Bonds for Sand Mines

HB 291 by Representatives Murr and Wilson calls for sand mines to file a reclamation plan before they get a permit to start mining, estimate the cost of the reclamation, and post a performance bond in that amount. Every time the mine expands, the owners would have to update the plan. The purpose of this bill is to ensure that miners simply don’t walk away from mines after the last ounce of profit is milked from them. That’s what many do now. The East and West Forks of the San Jacinto are littered with abandoned mines and rusting equipment. This bill also specifies the types of things that would have to go into the reclamation plan. It is scheduled for a hearing in the Environmental Regulation committee on 4/19/2021. To learn more about the bill, click here.
To support the bill, go to this web page and leave your comments.

HB 1912: Limiting Sand Mine Pollution

HB 1912 by Wilson would limit air-, light-, noise-, and water pollution; and soil erosion. It also sets limits, mandates monitoring equipment, and requires financial assurance for handling violations. Aggregate production operations throughout the state have had these problems. To learn more about the bill, click here. To support the bill, go to this web page and leave your comments.

Video Broadcast of Meeting

A live video broadcast of this hearing will be available here: https://house.texas.gov/video-audio/. The meeting starts at 2 p.m. or after adjournment of the House for the day.

Texas residents who wish to electronically submit comments related to this and other bills without testifying in person can do so until the hearing is adjourned by visiting: https://comments.house.texas.gov/home?c=c260.

One Sneaky, Bad Bill to Fight

Representative Harris of Hillsboro, TX has introduced HB 2144. Keep this on your radar. It takes away a private citizen’s right to sue for nuisance. For instance, if a sand mine were spewing silicon dust on your property, polluting your water, or flooding your home, you would have to convince the state to sue them. Good luck with that.

“Only the state or a political subdivision of this state may bring a public nuisance action…”


This bill has already passed out of committee. So the only way to fight it now is with amendments or on the house floor when it comes up for a vote. I suggest you contact your representatives and try to get them to fight this bill. To learn more about the bill, click here. It does not have a companion bill in the senate but, if approved in the House, would go there for consideration.

Today, nuisance is the most frequently pled theory of liability under common law tort for environmental litigation. Under public nuisance, a plaintiff, either a government entity or a private individual, may bring suit if there are damages, interference, or inconvenience to the health or safety of the public at large. 

HB 2144 would restrict public nuisance law only to cases where a person causes an unlawful condition, namely “an ongoing circumstance or effect … that is expressly prohibited by the laws of [Texas].” Further, the bill specifically provides that persons or entities engaged in “lawful manufacturing, distributing, selling, advertising, or promoting a lawful product” cannot be a public nuisance.  This ignores the fact that people and property can be seriously harmed even though no statute or regulation is violated – that’s one of the reasons we have common law causes like nuisance to begin with!  HB 2144 would remove the ability for the government or individuals to stop such harms from occurring or to seek redress.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/15/2021

1326 Days after Hurricane Harvey

The thoughts expressed in this post represent opinions on matters of public concern and safety. They are protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution and the Anti-SLAPP Statute of the Great State of Texas.

House Environmental Regulation Committee to Hear Testimony on Sand Mining Best Practices

Wednesday, May 1, 2019, the Texas House of Representatives Environmental Affairs Committee will hear testimony on HB 909. It would require the TCEQ to establish and publish best management practices for sand mining.

Why We Need HB 909

After Harvey, I discovered bright white trails of sand leading from sand mines upstream to massive sediment buildups in the Humble/Kingwood area. The Army Corps later acknowledged that some of our flooding was likely attributable to these massive sediment dams. No doubt some of the sand came from channel erosion, too. But we can’t do much to control that. We can, however, help reduce sediment from man-made sources with sensible regulations found in many other states, including those growing faster than Texas.

Improving Sand-Mining Best Management Practices

Texas sand mines do not follow many best management practices (BMPs) common in other parts of the country and the world. If practiced, they could help increase margins of safety, reduce risks associated with future flooding, and reduce the costs associated with cleanup. Below: the biggest opportunities for improvement.


Locate mines outside of floodways

Texas is the only state that does not mandate minimum setbacks from rivers for sand mines. As a result, virtually all mines in this area are built inside floodways of major rivers where floods can wash sediment downstream.

Establish performance bonds to cover the cost of cleanup

Giant sand dunes deposited during Harvey exacerbate flooding by constraining the conveyance of downstream drainage ditches and the San Jacinto river. Mining exposes downstream populations to heightened flood risk and reduces their property values. Performance bonds could ensure cleanup and repairs after floods in a timely way and force those who caused damage to bear the cost of remediation. 

Increase the width of dikes

Texas has no minimum setbacks from rivers and does not recognize erosion hazard zones. Some mines operate so close to the river that floodwaters breach their dikes repeatedly. Wider dikes:

  • Make stronger dikes that are less likely to fail and that improve safety.  
  • If forested, can slow currents as they enter and leave mines.
  • Reduce the amount of sediment picked up and carried downstream. 
  • Reduce the danger of river capture due to river migration.
River is migrating toward pit in background at the rate of 12 feet per year, in part, due to lack of vegetation protecting banks.
Decrease the slope of dikes

Other states and countries recommend gently sloping dikes to help grow vegetation, which reduces erosion. The near-vertical slope of many dikes on the San Jacinto can’t sustain vegetation.

Steep, loose dikes with no vegetation breach easily during floods.
Reduce erosion with vegetation

Planting dikes and unmined surfaces with grass and/or native trees can bind the soil, slow floodwater, reduce erosion, trap sand, and help retain sand within mine boundaries. 

Virtually all states and countries recommend planting native grasses and trees to help bind soil. Revegetating after plants have been removed can take years. Therefore, the best, cheapest and simplest practice is to leave native vegetation in place when constructing mines.

Replant areas not actively being mined 

Loose sand, exposed to floodwaters, exposes downstream communities to unnecessary risk. Replanting with native grasses and trees can bind soil, reduce water velocity during floods and reduce erosion. TCEQ reports that native grasses are 98% effective in reducing erosion. Keeping soil in place is the best way to keep it out of rivers.

Avoid clearing areas that will not soon be mined.

Delay clearing land until the last possible moment to reduce erosion risk from floodwaters. A large part of a sand mine on the East Fork was cleared, then went through three so-called “500-year storms” in the next three years – before any mining took place

This land was cleared just before consecutive 500-year floods in 2015, 2016 and 2017. Downstream communities like Kingwood paid the price. It still has not been mined.
30 acres of wetlands downstream from the mine above were covered by sand dunes up to 10 feet tall.

Protect stockpiles from flooding.

Loose sand in stockpiles is especially vulnerable during floods. During Harvey, sand mines adjacent to Kingwood lost four of six stockpiles completely. Another eroded severely. Only one escaped with little loss, the one on the highest ground, protected by a large swath of trees. 

Before Harvey, this stockpile covered 34 acres and was up to 100 feet tall. It is located at the confluence of not one, but two floodways, just upstream from the wetlands shown above.
Establish performance bonds to guarantee remediation of breaches and repurposing of mined areas once mining is complete.

Satellite images show dike breaches that have remained open 3 to 6 years. Even worse, obtaining a permit to mine in Texas requires a remediation plan, but it does not obligate mines to act on that plan when mining is complete. That creates safety hazards, eyesores, and economic development headaches for communities. 

Gaping Holes in Regs Exposed by Harvey

Harvey exposed gaping holes in Texas regulations. It underscored the importance of adopting better practices to help improve public safety, reduce damage to infrastructure, and avoid widespread flood damage to homes and businesses. Consequences of ignoring these recommendations potentially include:

  • Destruction of downstream communities through increased flooding
  • Illegal “taking” of private property
  • More loss of life
  • Unfair imposition of remediation costs on taxpayers
  • Hidden “subsidies” that distort the true cost of cement and its usage
  • Loss of faith in the ethical standards of businesses and the free enterprise system
  • Loss of faith in government institutions to protect people and property
  • Loss of home and business values
  • Reduction of property tax income to city and county governments
  • Making Texas a less desirable place to live.

Destruction like we experienced during Harvey is rarely caused by one thing. Multiple failures on multiple levels compounded each other. To the extent that sand mines contributed to the problem, they can help solve it by modifying business practices as described above.

Please Help

Texas has no simple, easy-to-read recommendations like Louisiana and other states. The few references to best management practices currently on the TCEQ web site have to do with a water-quality district on the Brazos. They do not apply to the San Jacinto.

Please support this legislation. Phone members of the House Environmental Regulation Committee.

  • Rep. J. M. Lozano (512) 463-0463
  • Rep. Ed Thompson (512) 463-0707
  • Rep. César Blanco (512) 463-0622
  • Rep. Kyle J. Kacal (512) 463-0412
  • Rep. John Kuempel (512) 463-0602
  • Rep. Geanie W. Morrison (512) 463-0456
  • Rep. Ron Reynolds (512) 463-0494
  • Rep. John Turner (512) 463-0576
  • Rep. Erin Zwiener (512) 463-0647

If you can come to Austin to testify, please do. The meeting will be in room  E1.026 of the Capitol Building. Most likely hearing time is in the evening around 8 p.m., but I plan to get there early. Hope to see you there.

Posted by Bob Rehak on April 29, 2019

608 Days since Hurricane Harvey

Earth Week Part 2: Clearing Land for Sand Mining

Best management practices for sand mining in many states say that miners should avoid clearing land until they’re ready to mine it. The roots of trees and grasses help stabilize soil during floods.

Barren land exposed to three 500-year storms. Vegetation not only binds the soil, it reduces the velocity of floodwaters, reducing the potential for erosion. Picture taken on 9/14/2017 two weeks after Hurricane Harvey.

Land Cleared, Then Three 500-Year Storms

However, on Caney Creek in Porter, a sand miner cleared 60 acres right before three 500-year storms in 2015, 2016 and 2017.

Except for a tiny pond at the far end of this cleared area, no mining had occurred here when I took this photo shortly after Harvey.

With little vegetation to reduce the velocity of floodwaters, the miner lost sand from this area and a significant portion of his stockpile. Below is a closer shot of the stockpile.

34-acre stockpile suffered severe erosion during Harvey.

Sand Damage Downstream from Mine

Meanwhile, downstream from the mine, when Harvey’s floodwaters subsided, Kingwood residents found 30 acres of East End Park covered with sand, including this area that was once wetlands.

Eagle Point section of Kingwood’s East End Park. After Harvey, sand dunes replaced wetlands.

Extreme events like Harvey reveal the need for regulations that protect both miners and the public.

Restoring the trails in the park cost residents hundreds of thousands of dollars. Several months after the storm, trees covered by sand started dying and continue dying to this day. Eagles, other birds, and residents have lost valuable wetlands.

Bills to Regulate Sitting Idle

State Representative Dan Huberty introduced a bill that would establish best management practices for sand miners and another bill that would require miners in the San Jacinto watershed to follow them.

  • HB 909 calls for the TCEQ to adopt and publish best management practices for sand mines.
  • HB 1671 creates penalties for non-compliance with best practices defined under HB 909.

The legislature has taken no action on either bill since:

  • The Environmental Regulation Committee received HB 909 on 2/25/19.
  • The Natural Resources committee received HB 1671 on 3/4/19.

Time Running Out

With only 37 days left in this legislative session, hopes for both bills are quickly fading. If you would like to see them enacted, please email committee members:

House Environmental Regulation Committee

House Natural Resources Committee

Click here to see my top ten recommendations for sand mining practices that could reduce erosion. Each represents an opportunity for improvement relative to other states.

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/23/2019

602 Days since Hurricane Harvey with 37 Days Left in the Legislative Session