February 2008 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Executive Editor
To keep up to date with this breakdown of news in the U.S. and Canada, visit www.aggman.com for daily updates.
Vulcan Materials Co. recently sold $1.2 billion of bonds in its biggest offering ever, Bloomberg News reports. The sale included $300 million of three-year notes, $300 million of five-year debt, $350 million of 10-year securities, and $250 million of 30-year bonds. Proceeds from the sale will pay off debt incurred by Vulcan when it purchased Florida Rock Industries Inc. in November 2007.
The Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) purchased a plane that is being used to locate construction sites, sand and gravel pits, and mining sites that haven’t applied for environmental permits or aren’t following requirements to prevent pollution. The Birmingham News reports that 917 sites with illegal pollution or other problems have been discovered so far. A total of 851 sites required follow-up and 257 enforcement actions have been initiated. Troy Glenn, director of the ADEM, told the newspaper that the plane saves time and money, allowing inspectors to cover more territory more quickly, and then follow up on the ground. From one meeting, $500,000 in new permits were generated.
After reaching a five-year agreement with Eklutna Inc., Alaska Aggregate Products (AAP) recently began development of the Native-owned land. By the third month of operation, the sand and gravel pit was processing 100,000 tons of aggregate, Alaska Business Monthly reports. According to reports, up to 50 million tons of aggregate could be extracted from the site, which is expected to have a significant impact on the Anchorage market.
The Fresno County Planning Commission tentatively granted approval for a gravel mine on the Kings River southeast of Sanger. The Fresno Bee reports that Calaveras Materials Inc. wants to mine up to a million tons per year of gravel from the 315-acre site. The mine is one of three major mines being proposed for the area, which is quickly becoming the metropolitan area’s new source of sand and gravel after decades of mining along the San Joaquin River. Calaveras Materials had previously received a permit for the area, but concluded the costs were too high when the county Board of Supervisors required it to rebuild a bridge and make road improvements. Since then, the county has been promised that federal funding will pay most of the cost for a new bridge, while Calaveras committed to paying a portion of the remaining cost.
Clear Creek Water Providers LLC launched a proposal for its MMRR Quarry near in Clear Creek Canyon. According to The Denver Post, the site would produce 1 million tons of aggregate annually. The company has received state mining board approval and has submitted a request for a special-use permit to operate a quarry on the 530-acre site. Developers have been in discussions with the Gilpin County Planning Commission, but at Aggregates Manager press time, no decision had been made.
Regional water managers tentatively approved a Port St. Lucie man’s request to withdraw up to 2.5 million gallons of water per day from about 20 feet below ground level, according to the Press Journal. The request is part of a sand mining project on a former citrus grove near Vero Beach. John Cairns, a Port St. Lucie dentist, made the request to pump the water and to mine a 23.7-acre pit on 80 acres in south Indian River County. A spokesperson for the St. Johns River Water Management District said that request would involve moving water around, but not removing water from the table — except for minimal amounts lost to evaporation. A county commissioner expressed doubts on that opinion and asked her colleagues to consider objecting to the approval.
Fears concerning fly ash have prompted about 100 people to join a class-action lawsuit against Constellation Energy Group, which is filling mined out portions of a Gambrills sand and gravel pit with fly ash. The Capital reports that one neighbor of the site invited people to play “a little game of Russian roulette,” with two glasses; one filled with bottled water and the other filled with water contaminated by fly ash. State documents show that wells near the site show elevated levels of sulfate. The lawsuit alleges that the contamination may put the county’s public water supply at risk.
The Dorchester County Planning Commission granted conditional approval for a new sand and gravel mine in Hurlock. According to the Daily Times, county planners still need to determine whether the mine requires a forest conservation or retention plan. The 67-acre site is located off Route 331.
The Kent County Commission’s Finance and Physical Resources Committee recommended the $1.1 million purchase of 111 acres located in the middle of its 1,500-acre park. The Grand Rapids Press reports that current property owners Sandco and Maynard Avenue Transfer LLC have completed mining on the site and are cleaning it up for sale. “They’re done mining, but they still have to finish crushing some concrete and removing it,” county Parks Director Roger Sabine told the newspaper. “Then, they’re going to shape the land to meet our needs.” He described the purchase as plugging the big hole in the donut that is the current park.
Manchester Sand & Gravel, the largest landowner in Hooksett, plans to donate to the town nearly 600 acres of conservation land, according to The Union Leader. The newspaper reports that the land may be used as an Audubon wildlife sanctuary and a turtle habitat. As part of the deal, the Department of Environmental Services (DES) dropped its opposition to having vehicles access what is expected to become a town recreation area. An attorney for Manchester Sand & Gravel told the town planning board that although the DES may not like the idea, they have negotiated it to allow the land donation to proceed.
Tim Gordon, the freshman Bethlehem assemblyman who got a bill through his house that would block the state from approving mining operations in communities over local objections, hand-delivered a petition to a Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) official. According to The Times Union, approximately 100 Nassau residents accompanied him as he turned over the petition, which opposed a permit that would allow aggregates mining in the town. In spring 2007, the DEC issued a mining permit to West Sand Lake-based Troy Sand & Gravel. The DEC official thanked participants for their comments and their “energetic exercising of civic responsibility.” Despite the state-issued permit, Troy Sand & Gravel has not yet been able to mine as it waits on a town permit. Most elected officials in the town and a citizens opposition group have fought the proposal and filed several lawsuits.
The Stoneworks gravel pit in Albuquerque’s South Valley area was given a temporary reprieve on its closure date, the Albuquerque Journal reports. The aggregate operation did not have a proper special use permit and was slated to close according to an agreement it had with Bernalillo County. However, when county officials inspected the property in early December, they found that cleanup of leftover sand and gravel had not been completed. The business owner requested an emergency hearing with a district judge who granted him a two-month extension to sell off remaining inventory. The site had 2,000 yards of asphalt and 33,000 yards of concrete remaining to be sold. The owner told the judge that the declining housing market had caused material sales to be slow.
The North Carolina Wildlife Federation recognized Vulcan Material Co.’s quarry in North Wilkesboro as a Wildlife And Industry Together (W.A.I.T.) site. According to a release from group, the honor recognizes the wildlife stewardship exhibited at the aggregates operation, as well as the company’s work toward creating valuable wildlife habitats on its grounds. “Promoting and maintaining a healthy environment is part of our operating plan,” says Tim Hendrix, plant manager. “Environmental partnerships and well-managed wildlife projects benefit us all.” Some of the projects at the site include working with Wilkes Central High School to add to its education center, working with Boy Scouts to construct and erect birdhouses, and planting acorn-producing trees as a food source.
Qualico has proposed building a gravel pit on a 43-hectare site along the North Saskatchewan River in southwest Edmonton, Alberta, and says it will eventually donate the reclaimed land for a park. However, the Edmonton Journal reports that neighbors are voicing concerns about the operation. The plan for the mine would divert truck traffic from residential areas by using a road through property Qualico owns. Qualico’s manager of land development told the newspaper that a draft agreement would stipulate donation of the land within a decade, but the transfer could happen sooner, depending on production rates.
‘Green’ Deal Challenges Dallas Cement Producers
At Aggregates Manager press time, a resolution believed to be the first of its kind in the nation was scheduled to take effect in Dallas. However, Ash Grove Cement Co. initiated talks with Dallas officials in an attempt to ease the resolution. According to the Dallas Business Journal, the company says its Midlothian plant wouldn’t qualify as a preferred green provider for the city of Dallas cement purchases. Two Dallas cement plants, owned by Texas Industries Inc. (TXI) and Holcim U.S. Inc., would qualify. Ash Grove Cement Co. President Charles Wiedenhoft proposed cutting its smog-producing pollution by 1 ton a day if the cities of Dallas and Fort Worth — which drafted a similar proposal — would use language that would qualify cement from Ash Grove’s wet kilns. Dallas Mayor Tom Leppert told the newspaper that the city wants the pollution reduction, noting that the next stage of the resolution must “improve the quality of the air and treat everyone fairly.” City staff members are developing options that would permit Ash Grove preferred status, but maintain additional emission reductions for dry kilns. Ash Grove’s proposal also calls for pollution cuts from kilns at TXI and Holcim, which drew mixed reactions from those companies. They have spent millions on emission-reduction technologies for their respective kilns, the Dallas Business Journal reports. “I don’t understand why Ash Grove needed to do that,” Randy Jones, spokesman for TXI, told the newspaper. He said that the company’s emissions would be well below the level Ash Grove is proposing by 2010, and questioned if the city were buckling on its resolve to force cleaner air. Jim Addams, regional senior vice president with Holcim, told the Dallas Business Journal that excluding Ash Grove from city work would give Holcim a competitive edge, but it wouldn’t improve the region’s air quality and indicated that the city should accept Ash Grove’s offer.