September 2009 – State & Province News
by Therese Dunphy, Editor-in-Chief
A U.S. District judge dismissed Rogers Group’s lawsuit against Limestone County Commission members, but at Aggregates Manager’s press time had not decided whether the quarry violates four state laws aimed at preventing its operation near Tanner. The News Courier reports that U.S. District Judge Inge Johnson dismissed Rogers Group’s claims against individual commission members, the commission, and landowners, but will hear evidence before deciding the constitutionality of local laws and whether they apply to the quarry. In a separate case, U.S. District Judge Sharon Blackburn dismissed a request by attorneys for the Limestone County Commission and landowners to return the case to the Limestone County Circuit Court. That case is now closed.
Months after a Phoenix Municipal Court judge ruled that Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. did not obtain a city permit to build a 3-year-old asphalt plant on its site, some south Phoenix residents are pressuring the city to shut down the plant. According to The Arizona Republic, city officials say they don’t have the legal authority to shut the plant down. In the meantime, the company is appealing the court ruling. Company officials outlined a proposal to allow the asphalt plant to operate for eight years. In return for the city’s approval, the company would shut down the plant and its nearby gravel operation and build a commerce park on the 50-acre site. The proposal is making its way through the zoning process. Public hearings could be starting at any time.
After three years of development, the Draft Environmental Impact Report (DEIR) for Granite Construction’s proposed Liberty Quarry has been finalized, the company reports. The DEIR, which is more than 7,000 pages, notes that the quarry provides multiple benefits to the region, reduces traffic on congested freeways, and improves the county’s air quality. “This report confirms what we’ve been saying since the beginning,” said Gary Johnson, aggregate resource development manager for Granite Construction. “This is an ideal location because it’s removed from population centers, has easy access to the freeway, and is not visible from the surrounding community.” The DEIR concluded that the best option is a reduced footprint that would reduce the operation’s size by 20 acres and prohibit access to approximately 13 percent of the reserves.
A Superior Court judge ordered the state Department of Transportation (DOT) to pay nearly $20 million more than it did for a 107-acre Brookfield quarry it took by eminent domain in 2004. According to NewsTimesLive.com, the DOT paid property owner Rock Acquisition LP $4.1 million when it took the land. Judge Barbara Sheedy ordered the agency to pay $22.9 million plus interest on the money from the time of the first payment. In her decision, Sheedy said that because the land’s most favorable use would have been as a quarry, the central issue to the case was the valuation of the reserves. “We worked hard and long for the right result, for a fair result,” said Robert Parker, president and CEO of Rock Acquisition. “All we wanted was fairness.”
Aggregate Industries, Northeast Region Inc., will pay a $2.75 million civil penalty and implement a regional evaluation and compliance program to resolve violations of the Clean Water Act, the Justice Department and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced. The penalty is the largest ever assessed to a nationwide ready-mix company for stormwater violations under the Clean Water Act and is the latest in a series of federal enforcement actions to address stormwater violations from industrial facilities and construction sites around the nation. Under terms of the consent decree, the company will implement pollution control measures, such as closed-loop water recycling systems, to eliminate discharges into surface waters.
An order signed by Judge Jerry Brown of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana converts the case of Madisonville, La.-based Phoenix Associates Land Syndicate from Chapter 11 to Chapter 7 liquidation. According to the Daily Deal, one of the sand and gravel company’s creditors — International Tuft Applicators Inc. — is seeking relief from stay so it can continue with litigation in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Louisiana. The company is owed $880,000. U.S. District Court Judge David Knowles remarked that the bankruptcy was filed in bad faith, since it occurred one day before the trial was set to begin. A hearing to consider the relief was scheduled, but it is not clear if the Chapter 7 conversion will affect the request. Phoenix listed assets of $6,300 and liabilities of $20.1 million in its petition.
GE Goding & Sons Inc., one of largest suppliers of sand, gravel, and concrete in the Lincoln Lakes region, abruptly shut its doors after its normal winter layoff. The Bangor Daily News reports that Sargent Corp. is negotiating to buy at least some of the assets of the 62-year-old business. Sargent has several gravel pits in the state and is said to be particularly interested in Goding’s gravel pit operations in Lincoln and some of its concrete plants.
Boston Sand & Gravel recently completed installation of a new 110-kilowatt solar energy power plant. The plant is expected to supply 75 percent of the overall energy needed to power its maintenance facility in Charlestown. The system contains more than 500 solar panels and takes up approximately a half acre. “Boston Sand & Gravel is excited and pleased to complete our solar installation,” said Dean Boylan, the company president. “It is a cornerstone of our Green Plan through which we will support our customers with materials for green construction while reducing our energy consumption in the production of those materials.”
A federal judge ordered a road-widening project on the Las Vegas Beltway to be halted pending a hearing on its bidding process. According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Clark County commissioners selected Las Vegas Paving over Fisher Sand and Gravel Co., even though Fisher’s bid was $4.6 million lower. Fisher bid $112.2 million and Las Vegas Paving bid $116.8 million to improve the Beltway. Fisher Sand and Gravel contends that commissioners indulged in union bias and favoritism in awarding Las Vegas Paving the contract against the advice of their legal counsel. “We’ve alleged in the complaint that Clark County commissioners have contrived a reason to deny Fisher Sand and Gravel the bid,” Fisher’s attorney, Stanley Parry, told the newspaper.
Martin Marietta is seeking city and state approval for an upgrade of its Statesville plant, the Charlotte Observer reports. The local city council is expected to give its approval to the required rezoning. The approval would allow construction of several new buildings in the first portion of a two-part upgrade expected to cost $10 million to $15 million. “We need to build a new processing plant,” Martin Marietta Vice President Pax Badham said at the public hearing. “What we have up there now is obsolete. The plant we are proposing will produce more aggregate in less time, and it will be both quieter and cleaner than our current facility.”
The Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance (VTCA), in conjunction with the Virginia Department of Mines, Minerals, and Energy — Division of Mining, sponsors the annual Mineral Mining Reclamation Awards program to reward companies that apply innovative techniques beyond standard reclamation requirements. VTCA reports that the winners of the 2009 Best Reclamation Award are Kyanite Mining Corp.’s Baker Mountain Mine (in the quarry category) and Texas Brine Co. Saltville, LLC’s Saltville Salt Operation (in the non-quarry category). Kyanite Mining Corp. was picked as the overall winner and will be submitted to the Interstate Mining Compact Commission for national competition. Honorable mentions went to Aggregate Industries’ Meadow Road Plant; General Shale Brick, Inc.’s Somerset Mine; and Vulcan Material Co.’s Curles Neck Sand and Gravel plant.
An Interlake man and his son died in a gravel pit northwest of Balmoral, Manitoba, in late July. According to the Selkirk Journal, a group of ATV operators discovered a 7-year-old boy, Clay Kirschman, clinging to the roof of a pickup truck submerged under water in the gravel pit. He was rescued and brought to shore. The bodies of his father, Wayne, and 5-year-old brother, Kurt, were recovered from the scene. The municipal police say they believe alcohol was a factor in the incident.
Polaris Minerals Corp. is cutting hours for workers at its Orca Sand and Gravel quarry on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, following a tough second quarter. The Times Colonist reports that operating hours are down by one-third, allowing workers to remain eligible for benefits. The company’s second quarter loss was $3.3 million (U.S.) compared with $1.9 million in the same quarter of 2008. The company incurred higher freight costs because it ran only partially loaded vessels. Herb Wilson, Polaris president and CEO, said the company has been affected by the recession in Canada and the United States, a tight California budget, and unusually wet weather. “To mitigate the effect of lower demand,” he said, “we have reduced operating hours, rationalized production, and aggressively managed costs.”