State and Province News February 2011
To keep up to date with this breakdown of news in the United States and Canada, visit www.AggMan.com for daily updates.
By Therese Dunphy
In late December, a federal appeals panel upheld a lower court ruling that a Fayetteville city ordinance that placed restrictions on quarries outside the city limits could cause irreparable harm to the companies. The Times Record reports that the three-judge panel of the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the lower court’s preliminary injunction that prevented the city from exercising authority over Rogers Group’s limestone quarry near Fayetteville. The company filed a lawsuit challenging the city’s 2009 ordinance that limited blasting to a handful of days a year. The Fayetteville City Council said the ordinance was needed because three quarries located within a mile of the city had become nuisances because of noise and vibration complaints from citizens.
Graniterock hosted more than 50 middle school students for a week-long Algebra Academy at its corporate office in Watsonville. According to the company, the event was part of its ongoing community outreach program with Rolling Hills Middle School where the operator provides support, tutoring, and mentoring in a number of subjects. Graniterock and the school collaborated with the Cal-State University Monterey Bay Math Department, which is nationally recognized for its work with community grade school students. After brainstorming options to put students on a path to higher academic achievement, they agreed on an intensive, six-day Algebra event. Graniterock also hosted a graduation ceremony and luncheon for participants. The university and school district plan to track the performance of program graduates in future years to help and improve the program over time.
In mid-December, a small fire broke out at Vulcan Materials Co.’s Reliance plant in Irwindale. According to the San Gabriel Valley Tribune, the morning fire was reported by Vulcan employees. As the first units arrived on the scene, they found a flaming tank. Flames were extinguished in the largely empty tank — used to produce rubberized asphalt — within about 45 minutes. Officials are working to determine the cause of the fire.
Overall mining activity throughout the state increased during 2010 after a dip in 2009, The Spokesman-Review reports. Idaho produced $1 billion worth of minerals in 2008 before production dropped in 2009. Production appears on track to match or surpass 2009 production, according to an associate research geologist for the Idaho Geological Survey. However, the geologist noted that mining for gravel and limestone did not fare as well, and those markets are not expected to recover for a couple of years.
The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers issued a permit to Nugent Sand and Gravel Co. to expand its barge unloading facility in a cove near Utica. According to The Courier-Journal, the Corps included restrictions on commercial operations in the cove, including a prohibition of additional docking of barges on the western side of the cove from May 1 to Sept. 15, which is prime recreational boating season. During recreational boating season, barges can’t be moved within the cove on weekends and from 5 p.m. the day before through 7 a.m. the day after a federal holiday. Up to 71 barges will be allowed in the cove, up from a previous limit of 10. During prime boating season, a cap of 41 moored barges will be in place.
Chad Van Zee, president of a Rock Valley ready-mixed concrete company, pleaded guilty to participating in a conspiracy to fix prices for sales of ready-mixed concrete, the Department of Justice announced. According to the charge, Van Zee participated in a conspiracy with Steven Keith VandeBrake — a former executive of another ready-mixed concrete company — to set annual price increases to sell ready-mixed concrete at collusive and non-competitive prices, and accepted payment for those sales. Van Zee is charged with violation of the Sherman Act, which carries a maximum penalty for individuals of 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. In May 2010, VandeBrake pleaded guilty. He agreed to cooperate with the Department of Justice’s ongoing antitrust investigation and to serve 19 months in prison.
According to the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), it has obtained a court order that imposes several requirements on Sullivan Granite Co. LLC, which operates Brown’s Meadow Quarry in Franklin. In early December, the U.S. District Court for the District of Maine ordered mine owner and operator Conrad Smith to cease operating the mine until all cited and outstanding safety and health violations have been corrected, and a federal inspector has verified that the operator is in compliance. The operator was also directed not to take any action to impede or interfere with MSHA inspectors in completing their inspection duties. MSHA inspectors asserted that — as early as last June — the mine operator violated withdrawal orders issued by MSHA; denied them entry to the property; failed to abate violations; and refused to allow access to equipment at the quarry, provide documents and information on request, and assist with the inspection.
Following a swearing-in ceremony for new and re-elected members, the Worcester County Commissioners voted 6-1 to install a truck route in Pocomoke City, the Daily Times reports. The action was suggested by Merrill Lockfaw Jr., while he was a member-elect. Lockfaw, a former county road superintendent, said he drafted the rule due to concerns about damage to local roads and bridges due to trucks hauling from an area aggregate producer. Commissioner Virgil Shockley was the sole vote against the truck route. No through truck traffic of 15,000 pounds or greater gross vehicle weight will be allowed on Cypress Road, New Bridge Road, Hillman Road, Dun Swamp Road, or Tulls Corner Road.
From April until June, an update of Flathead County’s 2007 County Growth Plan will focus on sand and gravel resources and a property owner’s “Bill of Rights.” According to the Daily Inter Lake, the so-called Bill of Rights was introduced by new County Commissioner Pam Holmquist. County Planning Director BJ Grieve said the plan update will focus on specific areas that need clarification or revisions. Other focus areas include economic development; facts, figures, and maps; and plans for a county park. Quarterly public workshops are tentatively being scheduled for March, June, and September.
Late last year, the U.S. Silica plant in Mauricetown reached a million hours — or more than 10 years — worked without any of its 48 employees taking a day off due to injury. “I don’t think we’ve seen any of our other 14 plants get to a million consecutive hours without a lost work day injury,” U.S. Silica President John Ulizio told pressofAtlanticCity.com. “We are all extremely proud of the people in Mauricetown. We hope they continue on for another million hours.” MSHA officials are expected to attend a spring picnic celebrating the safety achievement.
Two children found some skeletal remains near Martin Marietta’s quarry in Statesville. According to the city’s police chief, the human remains appeared to have been at the site for several years. The Statesville Record & Landmark reports that the remains appear to be the result of a suicide, but investigation is ongoing. The remains will be examined by the North Carolina State Medical Examiner in an attempt to determine cause of death and the identity of the remains.
Houston-based Cemex has been ordered to pay more than $1.5 million in overtime back wages to employees in nine states — Arizona, California, Georgia, New Mexico, North Carolina, South Carolina, and Texas. The U.S. Department of Labor announced that it filed a consent judgment in its case against the company to recover pay for 1,705 current and former ready-mix drivers. Leslie White, executive vice president and general counsel for Cemex, said in an e-mail to the Herald-Journal, that the company believed its pay-by-the-load system was in compliance with the law at the time, and many employees received more compensation than they would have under a traditional pay system.
Nearly 19,000 new jobs would be created in Virginia with an increased investment in transportation construction, according to a new study, Building Virginia’s Future: The Economic Impacts of a $1 Billion Annual Transportation Capital Investment. The study, prepared for the American Road & Transportation Builders Association Transportation Development Foundation, notes transportation investment would also generate $162 million in new state tax revenues and boost the state’s economic output by $2.45 billion. “These figures are more than promising; they are real,” said Richard Reese, president of the Virginia Transportation Construction Alliance. “Everyone benefits. People acquire good jobs, the state’s economic outlook improves, and drivers and visitors benefit from better safety and reduced congestion on our bridges and roads.”
Rempel Brothers Concrete, Inc. is seeking permission to expand its Central Whidbey mine by 100 acres to excavate an additional 10 million tons of material. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports that a county land use planning staff issued a mitigated determination of non-significance under the state Environmental Policy Act, so a full-blown environmental impact study would not be required. They did, however, create a list of eight conditions to protect the groundwater. Staff members are recommending that the mine be allowed to expand, with 21 additional conditions including expansion in 7-acre segments which must be reclaimed within a year of mining.
The office of King County Executive Dow Constantine announced that the county’s purchase of Glacier Northwest’s gravel mine on Maury Island was completed by the end of 2010. According to The Seattle Times, the county purchased the mine for $36 million and the county took possession of the property on Dec. 30. The county plans to turn the mine into a park.