Between a Hard Place and a Rock
An exclusive survey from Aggregates Manager reveals what producers can expect when seeking their next permit.
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
For years, the permitting process has remained predictable. A producer seeks a permit for a new aggregate operation or the expansion of an existing one. A group of local citizens or regulators oppose the permit. Community pressure is brought to bear upon the elected officials sitting on the zoning board. They either cave to said pressure or develop a costly laundry list of requirements if a permit is granted.
Typically, the important uses of aggregates such as the construction of highways, bridges, homes, schools, and hospitals are lost among concerns about blast vibrations, groundwater concerns, and noise and dust complaints. Urban legend (or at least industry lore) suggests that years may pass and millions of dollars may be spent in order to secure a permit. So what’s the real picture? How long does it take to secure a permit? What does it cost? How do those factors vary based on operation size and location? These are some of the questions tackled by the Aggregates Manager Permitting Survey.
In May, the survey was sent to a select portion of our readership including many company owners and executives. More than 400 responses were returned, including responses from every state with the nation. In terms of production, 49.3 percent of respondents produced less than 500,000 tons per year or less, while 16.2 percent produced more than 3 million tons per year. Slightly fewer than 70 percent of respondents worked for small, independent companies and slightly more than 30 percent worked for a site that was a subsidiary or part of a larger company.
The buck stops here
One goal of the survey was to capture industry sentiment about whether the permitting climate has changed during recent years. Rather than rely on anecdotal evidence, we sought specific information about producer experiences with this issue. On a scale of 1 to 5 (1 represents strongly disagree, 5 represents strongly agree), 75.1 percent of producers said they believe that permitting has become more difficult during the last decade. Not surprisingly, the West demonstrated the sharpest response to this question with 88.0 percent of respondents strongly agreeing that permitting was indeed tougher now than 10 years ago.
In terms of cost, 77.2 percent of respondents said that permitting has become more expensive during the last decade. In contrast 0.2 percent disagreed with that premise. Again, the West chimed in with the strongest reaction; 87.7 percent there strongly agreed with the statement. In terms of production, sand and gravel producers edged out crushed stone producers with 80.0 percent and 79.7 percent, respectively, agreeing with the assumption.
In some areas of the nation, local markets have already noted a shortage of aggregates. This was verified through survey responses. By region, the West noted the highest number of producers who say there is already an aggregates shortage with 33 percent. In descending order, the Northeast (26.2 percent), South (24.6 percent), and North Central (13.2 percent) agreed. When speculating on future aggregate availability, the regional trends remained true to that pattern. Producers in the North Central reported not only the lowest number of those who felt there is a current shortage, but also the highest number (5.0 percent) who said they don’t believe there will be a shortage.
Banking on reserves
Across the various segments of aggregates producers surveyed – crushed stone and sand and gravel, crushed stone only, sand and gravel only, and other – the most frequently cited response to an inquiry about existing permitted reserves was that the respondent had less than 5 million tons of permitted reserves at the site. While that is not surprising for smaller producers (77.7 percent of those who produced less than 250,000 tons per year responded in this manner), it is a somewhat disconcerting response from the 6.4 percent of producers in the 1.6 million tons per year category. At that rate of production, those sites noted slightly more than three years of remaining reserves.
MORE FROM Articles
SUBSCRIBE & FOLLOW
- Former gravel quarry-turned-landfill transforms into nature reserve519 Views
- North Carolina grants Martin Marietta water quality certification for limestone quarry256 Views
- Vulcan-blocking bill dies in Alabama legislature249 Views
- Road restrictions may stop quarry construction in Kentucky213 Views
- Two suspects charged with arson in Jack’s Mountain Quarry case in Virginia127 Views