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.
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
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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.