August 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
According to www.cullmantimes.com, Cullman County Sheriff’s deputies have questioned two suspects and are searching for a third allegedly involved in the theft of $100,000 worth of copper from a Bremen-area quarry. A spokesman for the sheriff’s office told the newspaper that the theft included spools of copper, wire from machines, a computer hard drive, and a flat screen monitor. The investigation led deputies to a residence in Etowah County where they found items consistent with those stolen from the quarry. A significant amount of copper was found in a local salvage yard. The spokesman said that copper crimes have surged during recent years as the current rate for copper is $3 per pound. He noted that due to the size of the theft, those involved were likely to be experienced thieves.
The state attorney general and Riverside County district attorney filed a lawsuit against TXI International, claiming the company exposed residents to hexavalent chromium without meeting warning requirements outlined in Proposition 65, www.dailybulletin.com reports. The lawsuit was filed in Riverside Superior Court. Elevated levels of hexavalent chromium were detected in Rubidoux during a five-month investigation by the South Coast Air Quality Management District conducted earlier this year. In April, the agency identified piles of cement dust at TXI’s plant as the likely cause of elevated chemical levels. The state has not determined the amount it will seek in penalties and restitution, but the company is subject to a fine of $2,500 a day for violations. In June, TXI agreed to pay $1 million in penalties and reimbursement fees to the AQMD as part of its agreement to reduce the chemical levels.
Gov. Charlie Crist announced a $1.75 billion deal to reclaim a portion of the northern Everglades that may impact plans to mine a portion of the site. According to the Palm Beach Post, the state plans to buy 187,000 acres from U.S. Sugar Corp., and lease the land back to the company for the next six years to offset its $2.2 billion price tag. Florida Rock Industries had already announced plans to mine 7,036 acres of that land. Palm Beach County granted zoning approval for the project in April. “We’re moving ahead with the permitting process for the leased property,” said David Donaldson, spokesman for Vulcan Materials Co., Florida Rock’s parent company. “We plan to mine there when permits are received.” Managers with the South Florida Water Management District told the newspaper that a mine could complicate its plans to create a continuous path of marshes and reservoirs connecting the lake with the Everglades.
The Bourbon County Public Works Department touted its new screening plant as allowing it to double aggregate production at its Bourbon County Rock Quarry, The Fort Scott Tribune reports. “We can fix roads at a faster rate. We’re getting better, cleaner rock,” Bourbon County Public Works Supervisor Clyde Killion told the newspaper. “Producing rock at two different stackers doubles our output of rock.” He added that because the county can produce its own rock, the cost is much lower than it would be if the county had to purchase it elsewhere. The county also changed its schedule from five eight-hour days to four 10-hour days to reduce time setting up and shutting down work sites and to spend more time laying pavement.
Steve Tripp, marketing manager for Chaney Enterprises, was named the “2007 Promoter of the Year” by the Maryland Ready Mix Concrete Association (MRMCA) on June 9. Tripp was described as a champion of pervious concrete and was recognized for his efforts and forward thinking to introduce, educate, and promote pervious concrete as a viable product, not only for Chaney Enterprises, but throughout the state. “What impresses me, as a full-time promoter, is that Steve challenged me to reach farther, be more competitive, and think about an even ‘bigger picture’ to advance the concrete industry,” said Tom Evans, promotion director, MRMCA.
Congressman Fred Upton secured $1.06 million in additional funding to dredge St. Joseph Harbor, U.S. Fed News reports. Although the inner harbor is currently being dredged to a depth of 22 feet, the additional funds are expected to ensure that the depth of the inner and outer harbors is maintained in 2009. In March, a tug and barge were unable to reach the commercial docks. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was brought in and reported that 180,000 cubic yards of sediment had choked the ability of ships to reach commercial docks. The Corps also expedited dredging of the harbor. The inner harbor is a key port for transportation of limestone, sand, and gravel used for state highways. The loss of shipping could triple the cost of those projects if not alleviated.
The Koochiching County Board voted 4-1 against Bowman Construction’s request for a zoning change and conditional use permit for a 4-acre quarry on an 80-acre site. According to the International Falls Daily Journal, 16 people interested in the project attended the county board meeting. Residents voiced concerns about the impact of a commercial project in a residential area, as well as fears regarding truck traffic and area wells. Commissioners raised concerns about the county’s process for applying for a permit and meeting notification requirements. Neighbors within one-half mile of the proposed site were notified and a notification was printed in a local newspaper. The newspaper also reported that the county is expected to have a shortage of materials needed for road maintenance in the future.
A federal jury ordered Greenwood to pay Martin Marietta Materials damages for interfering with truck traffic on city streets. A report on www.kansascity.com indicates that U.S. District Judge Dean Whipple had issued an injunction to prevent the city from enforcing an ordinance outlawing heavy trucks on South Second Street. The company testified that the route was the most practical way for traffic to travel between its site and Missouri 291. Whipple presided over a jury trial where Martin Marietta sued the city for breach of contract. The jury awarded it more than $30,000 for the breach of contract and $438,006.24 for the city’s violation of the Commerce Clause of the U.S. Constitution. In March, a jury in the Jackson County Circuit Court awarded Greenwood $11.9 million from the quarry for compensation and punitive damages from the trucks. Martin Marietta is appealing that judgment.
The state’s permitting process has received considerable coverage and notoriety following the release of a performance audit conducted by the state auditor who investigated the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) at the request of the Legislative Audit Committee. According to the Great Falls Tribune, DEQ Director Richard Opper told the committee that he accepts responsibility for flaws in the state’s gravel permitting process. In May, several District Court rulings forced the agency to issue mining permits without the necessary environmental reviews because the agency took too long to process the applications. One highlight from the performance audit was the DEQ’s failure to collect a tax intended to be a key source of funding for the program. Opper promised to implement the audit’s recommendations for improving efficiency within a year, but also said the agency needs to employ additional staff and adjust timelines for environmental reviews to allow for public comment.
At Aggregates Manager press time, Bernards Township was considering a vote to approve an ordinance prohibiting quarry operators from importing soil for use in reclamation plans. The Millington Quarry may be shut down in about eight years, Beth Sisk, public relations director for Tilcon, N.Y., Inc., told www.mycentraljersey.com. The town is concerned about the use of contaminated soil in reclamation efforts. A year ago, it began sporadic testing of truckloads of soil. During that year, five loads have tested positive for contaminants in excess of state limits, Committeeman Scott Spitzer told the news organization. If passed, the ordinance would direct the operation to use dirt and fill from its site. When the site closes, Millington Quarry hopes to build a new residential development around a 24-acre lake. That plan was submitted to the township in January, but rejected on July 2. Tilcon and Millington Quarry are in the process of reviewing the township committee’s requirements for the revised rehabilitation plans.
State Supreme Court Justice Michael Lynch dismissed a lawsuit brought by the town of Nassau to try to stop an aggregates mine proposed by Troy Sand & Gravel. The Times Union reports that the state Department of Environment and Conservation (DEC) authorized a permit to allow mining at the 89-acre site off Route 66 in May 2007. Three months later, the town sued the DEC and Troy Sand & Gravel. It attempted to negate the permit by arguing that the DEC didn’t take the necessary “hard look” at the project’s environmental impact. Lynch ruled in the DEC’s favor, saying that it did take a hard look at impacts including truck traffic, noise, operating hours, visual impacts, blasting, air quality, dust control, surface and subsurface water impacts, and community character and zoning issues. Town Supervisor David Fleming, who has led the five-year fight against the mine, told the newspaper that the town hasn’t yet decided to appeal. Company owner Jude Clemente called the ruling significant, but questioned the money being spent to fight the mine. “Many of the elected officials fighting this live in the area of the mine and are using taxpayers’ money in their own efforts to keep the mine out of their backyards,” he said.
In mid-July, trucks weighing more than 20,000 pounds were banned from crossing the Route 9W bridge in Stony Point, according to The Journal News. The newspaper reported that most of the overweight trucks traveling the bridge served Tilcon’s Tomkins Cove quarry. During peak season, more than 180 trucks are dispatched from the operation on a daily basis. Each fully loaded truck weighs 120,000 pounds. Tilcon spokesman Geoff Thompson told the newspaper that the company believed it was being singled out and was exploring its legal options. “The town consciously has blocked the two obvious and viable routes…,” Thompson said. “We feel that this is a violation of interstate commerce laws.” Earlier, Lowland Hill Road was closed to the operation’s trucks. Two routes remain available to the site. The first includes a bridge with a maximum weight less than a fully loaded truck and the second is a path that features numerous curves, steep declines, and a narrow width. Thompson said the route would add a minimum of two hours to delivery points in the Bronx and Manhattan and would result in steep price increases.
Vulcan Materials Co.’s Anderson Quarry was presented with the Workplace Volunteer Award by the governor’s office at the 2008 Governor’s Volunteer Awards on May 5. According to www.independentmail.com, the quarry was nominated by Biff Kimmons, a guidance counselor at Nevitt Forest Elementary School. The company has a business-education partnership with the school.
Texas Industries Inc. announced that its Midlothian plant would reschedule its two annual maintenance shutdowns in order to prolong the plant’s production time. The plant completed its first nine-day maintenance shutdown in April rather than January. The typical July shutdown was moved to September. This downtime is expected to last between 10 and 15 days.
Glacier Island received the final permit on a dock-building project for its Maury Island site and said it could begin construction on the 400-foot pier that would open operations at its 192-acre gravel mine as soon as the middle of this month. The pier will feature an enclosed conveyor belt to facilitate barging of materials. The Vashon-Maury Island Beachcomber reports that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said the pier will have an impact on the area, but not a significant enough of one to withhold the permit. A spokesperson for the Corps told the newspaper that it had reviewed more than 500 comments submitted by islanders and others concerned about the project. Members of the decade-old Preserve Our Islands opposition group say they will continue to fight the project. The group’s president told the newspaper that the Corps erred in failing to require an environmental impact statement and in disregarding letters from local realtors concerning the operation’s impact on area property values.
The Lisbon Town Board stalled Halquist Stone Co.’s plans to rezone five residential parcels it owns so that it can expand quarry operations in 20 to 30 years. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Supervisor Ron Esser convinced his fellow board members not to act on a recommendation from the Plan Commission until the board has more information about the use of the property and the fiscal impact of rezoning. He said that the property is zoned residential but has been used for agricultural purposes. He also wants to know the impact of rezoning on the town’s tax base. The commission recommended the five properties be rezoned to permit extraction of aggregates via blasting. Both the Town Board and Waukesha County have already approved the necessary land-use plan changes to allow rezoning. Town Supervisor Joseph Osterman, who owns property next to the Halquist property, has been a vocal opponent of the proposed rezoning. He abstained from the vote. Halquist spokesman Dave Anderson said the company was seeking rezoning now “so there will be no surprises for new people moving in and looking at zoning maps.”
A lawyer speaking on behalf of a local company that wants to open a 200-acre limestone quarry north of Havelock, Ontario, told attendees of a special meeting of the Havelock-Belmont-Methuen council that the site is a good place to extract aggregates. According to the Community Press, the lawyer noted that very few aggregate licenses have been granted in Ontario during the last 10 years and resources are diminishing. He also pointed out that provincial policy specifies that resource industries must be located in rural areas. A spokesman for a community opposition group complained that such use would not be compatible with the rural character of the area and voiced concerns about environmental issues, dust, noise, and wells. The previous owners of the site, Harnden and King Construction, received approval for a quarry, but never opened an operation. The new owner, Drain Brothers, has applied to the Ministry of Environment to license the site under the Aggregate Resources Act. If the license is approved, a maximum of 500,000 tons per year could be extracted from the site, which boasts reserves of close to 30 million tons.