Going for the Green
Summit Materials’ recently acquired crushed stone quarry in central Texas has raised the bar on working with and for the community and the environment.
Deep in the heart of Texas, a crushed-stone quarry is making every effort to do the right thing for both the surrounding community and the environment. The quarry, formerly KBDJ, was acquired by Summit Materials last year, and the two fit together like a hand in glove, according to Jill Shackelford, president of Industrial Asphalt, LLC and KBDJ.
“KBDJ was the company we formed to permit the land in 2002,” Shackelford says. “We started mining in 2004 under a permit by rule (PBR). A PBR allows limited production and limited hours of operation, if you’re on a big enough piece of property. It was a small 210-tons-per-hour permit. We mined under that permit for a year until we got our air permit.”
The quarry, Nehemiah Pit, is located on Ruby Ranch in Hays County, just south of Austin near the small town of Buda. The Ruby family has owned the ranch for a long time and still lives there, and they possess 100 percent of the mineral rights. The quarry occupies approximately 450 acres of the ranch.
“This was a working cattle ranch,” Shackelford says. “We came in and built a road. We paved it as part of our air permit for dust control.”
It wasn’t smooth sailing in the beginning, but Shackelford and Jeff Coyle, who handles public relations for the quarry, were committed to making things work with the community.
“It really is, so often, a fear thing,” Coyle says of early resistance from the surrounding community. “People have impressions that are not necessarily rooted in fact. They’re scared, and they fight back. Our process has been to share information with the community and help them understand how the quarry works. When they do understand, they cease to worry about it. Now, the neighbors literally love Jill.”
“We took the loudest voices of opposition in the community and invited them all to participate in a quarry advisory committee,” Shackelford says. “There were maybe half a dozen of them. Two or three said ‘no thanks’ and went on their way, but the other three or four participated. It has made all the difference, because the conversations are frank and to the point. There are no more rumors. We don’t want any secrets from these people. It went well, and they appreciate our honesty.”
One man in the community started a group called NOPE (Neighbors Organized to Protect the Environment) that fought the quarry for years. But with the open communication, he became a friend and is now one of the quarry’s biggest advocates.
“The neighbors know they can call us if they need anything, if they have questions, or if they want to come out,” Shackelford says. “We have a very open-door policy with the community, and I think that’s our biggest asset.”
When the company was sold to Summit Materials in 2011, the neighbors were concerned that the open-door policy might change and that the new owners wouldn’t do what KBDJ had been doing to protect the environment, so an open house was held. The whole community was invited to the quarry to meet the new owners.
“Summit is about the exact same things we believe in,” Shackelford says. “They’re completely onboard with what we’ve done here and are promoting it nationwide. They’re a bigger company, so there are more resources available.”
Resistance didn’t just come from the community, however. “I actually caught a lot of flak in my own industry because I was so proactive in being environmentally aware in dealing with the public and plugging the public into our operation,” Shackelford says. “There were old-school people in the industry who thought I was nuts. But the old days of thinking ‘it’s my property and it’s my water and I can do what I want to with it’ are gone.”