On August 12, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Commissioners voted unanimously to initiate a rule-making process that would establish best management practices for commercial sand mining in the San Jacinto River watershed.
Joint TACA/Lake Houston Area Request
In June, 2020, both TACA and the Lake Houston Area Grassroots Flood Prevention Initiative presented petitions to have the TCEQ establish best practices. Though the two sides have not agreed on important provisions, such as setbacks from the river and reclamation, the start of the process is a positive step.
Seven Minutes of Deliberation
You can watch the discussion among the commissioners on YouTube. Items 29 and 30 on the agenda (the two petitions) start at approximately 17 minutes into the meeting. Discussion lasts about 7 minutes.
After the commission secretary announced the agenda items, Mr. Josh Leftwich of TACA spoke on behalf of the measure. Mr. Leftwich took over as president and CEO of TACA on June 15, from David Perkins. (Mr. Perkins joined Lehigh Hanson, an aggregate company, as the Vice President of Government Affairs.)
No one for the Lake Houston Area spoke on behalf of the proposal.
Rebecca Vialva, executive director of the TCEQ Water Quality Division explained that both sides of this debate submitted separate but similar petitions in June. They requested the agency to establish a rule making process with stakeholder involvement to ensure adequate environmental protection. Ms. Vialva explained that her Water Quality Division supported that.
Vic McWherter, from the Commission’s Office of Public Interest Counsel, also supported the idea.
No one asked questions.
Rule-Making Process Not Same as Adopting Specific Rules
Before taking a vote, Jon Niermann, Chairman of the Commission, explained that initiating a rule-making process was not the same as adopting specific rules. It does not commit to any specific rules or outcomes. It simply starts a public dialog.
All three commissioners, Jon Niermann, Emily Lindley, and Bobby Janecka, voted to start the process.
Model for Rest of State?
Both Mr. Janecka and Mr. Niermann expressed wishes that Best Management Practices for the San Jacinto Watershed could become a model for the rest of the state.
Lake Houston Leaders Urge Public to Engage
Dave Feille and Bill McCabe, leaders of the Lake Houston Area Grass Roots Flood Prevention Initiative, sent out an email this morning. In it, they called the TCEQ decision “a major step forward.” However, they were quick to add, “Not surprisingly, the Petitions differed in some key areas and these will be addressed and consolidated in the rule-making stage of the process.”
“We would encourage all stakeholders to become involved in the rule-making process by following the progress of our Petition at: https://www.tceq.texas.gov/rules/participate.html,” said Feille and McCabe.
Efforts to establish best practices for sand mining died in committee in the state legislature last year. Let’s hope this has a better outcome.
Posted by Bob Rehak on 8/16/2020
1083 Days since 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.