Tag Archive for: Van Til

Outlook Good for Bill That Would Double Fines for Illegal Sand Mining

On April 17th, the Texas House of Representatives Environmental Regulations committee heard testimony on a bill that would double fines for illegal sand mining, HB907. No illegal sand miners spoke against the bill, so this one has a pretty good chance of passing.

Click here to view testimony.

Key Points in Huberty’s Testimony

The bill’s author, State Representative Dan Huberty laid out the case for the bill starting at 9:29 into this recording. His main points: this bill does not penalize miners who have registered with the TCEQ, only those who have not. He reminded committee members how bad the problem of illegal sand mining was when his first sand mining bill was passed in 2011. Huberty said that he believes the problem of unregistered sand mining continues to this day. However, he said, the fines set in 2011, no longer make the same deterrent they did then. He said the increased fines would enable the TCEQ to increase oversight efforts.

Why This is Important

Illegal sand mining contributes disproportionately to the problem of sedimentation in the river. That’s because it often takes place in or on the banks of the river. The illegal miners make no attempt to control erosion or sediment. And the scars can last for decades.

Here is a satellite image from 1989 on the West Fork of a mining operation near a point bar. At this point in time, sand miners were not forced to register with the TCEQ.
The same area almost 30 years later still bears the scars. Both photos courtesy of Google Earth.

Supported by Both TACA and Environmental Groups

At about 18 minutes into the recording, Rob Van Til, owner of River Aggregates, a registered sand mining company, spoke in favor of the bill. Speaking for himself as well as TACA, he said it would help deter “bad actors.”

Grant Dean, representing the Texas Environmental Coalition, from Marble Falls, also rose to speak in favor of the bill.

Not a “Christmas Tree”

Given the lack of opposition, Huberty then wrapped up testimony by moving for passage of he bill. He said that he would not allow the bill to become a “Christmas Tree” when it went to the House floor. A Christmas tree bill is a political term referring to a bill that attracts many, often unrelated, floor amendments that provide special benefits to various groups or interests.

The testimony with questions from the committee members took about 15 minutes. In response to one of the questions, Huberty details all of the other flood mitigation legislation moving through the Legislature at this time. It’s definitely worth watching if you want a preview of how the political landscape could change for sand mining in coming years.

Revenue Neutral

While this is certainly not the most important piece of sand mining legislation, it will help in a limited way by plugging a legislative and enforcement gap. And because the extra revenue generated will pay for the enforcement, it is revenue neutral.

Status: Pending in Committee

To read the text of HB907, click here. Senator Brandon Creighton has introduced a companion bill in the Senate, SB2123. Both are still pending in committee.

Creighton’s SB2123 was referred to the Natural Resources & Economic Development Committee on March 21. The committee has not yet held hearings on it.

Reasoning Behind Companion Bills

A companion bill is a bill filed in one chamber that is identical or very similar to a bill filed in the opposite chamber. Companion bills are used to expedite passage as they provide a means for committee consideration of a measure to occur in both houses simultaneously. A companion bill that has passed one house can then be substituted for the companion bill in the second house.

How You Can Help

Both of these bills deserve the support of Lake Houston Area residents. To urge action, call or email the committee members. Here is contact info for:

Said Huberty at the end of the day, “It was quick, but we feel good about this!”

Posted by Bob Rehak on 4/20/2019

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