March 2010 – State and Province News

| Published on March 1, 2010

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, Editor in Chief

 

Arizona

In early February, a bipartisan vote of the state Senate endorsed a three-year hike in the state sales tax. The YumaSun.com reports that — if approved — the tax increase would help forestall more than $900 million in annual cuts throughout the next three years as the state faces an anticipated deficit of $3.4 billion next year. During the debate, Sen. Rebecca Rios (D-Apache Junction) led an effort to extend the 1-percent point hike to taxes paid by the mining and sand and gravel industries. She pointed out that mining has a 2.5-percent tax levy on extracted minerals while sand and gravel is taxed at a 3.2-percent rate. She said the industries should be “good corporate neighbors” and contribute their share. Lawmakers rejected her proposal.


California

Cemex announced that it will permanently shut down its cement plant and quarry on Santa Cruz County’s North Coast. The Santa Cruz Sentinel reports that the 133-year-old operation was temporarily closed last March and company officials said it would reopen when cement demand improved. “Unfortunately, market conditions have not improved and the company has made the very difficult decision to permanently shut down operations,” Cemex Vice President of Human Resources John Andrews wrote in a letter to employees. The facility employed approximately 120 people.


California

Vandals damaged four large pieces of equipment at quarries owned by Graniterock near Davenport and Felton, according to The Monterey County Herald. Authorities say the damage could cost as much as $400,000 to repair. Employees reported the damage after finding that someone apparently poured a powdery substance in the motors and transmissions of the heavy equipment, including three bulldozers and one excavator. Graniterock President Bruce Woolpert told the newspaper that he is aware of at least one other Felton area company that sustained similar damage.


Colorado

By a 3-0 vote, El Paso County Commissioners approved a special use permit that will allow Lafarge to expand its operations there, despite neighbor opposition. According to KRDO.com, the company has agreed to make more than $1 million in improvements to boost safety at the I-25 exit ramp near its operation. Steve Brown, Lafarge’s director of land management for the Western U.S. Region, told the television station that the company has agreed to conditions that would require extensive groundwater monitoring. It also has a reclamation plan for lakes or reservoirs on the property. The 15-year project will take place in two phases, with the first phase being reclaimed upon completion of its mining.


Illinois

The Illinois Association of Aggregate Producers will present its Illinois Teachers Workshop July 19-21 at the Chestnut Mountain Resort in Galena. Titled “Rocks, Minerals & Mining in Today’s Society,” the seminar will offer creative ways to teach earth science for elementary and high school students. Lectures, as well as hands-on activities, will be offered. For more information and a registration form, visit the association’s Web site at iaap-aggregates.org/workshop.htm. Registration is limited to the first 35 teachers.


Massachusetts

A news release from the Conservation Law Foundation says that environmental advocates hailed the release of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan as a giant step toward achieving enduring stewardship of the state’s ocean waters and described it as a “critical first building block for the Obama Administration’s effort to develop a National Ocean Policy built around regional ocean management plans.” The foundation and Mass Audubon praised the plan’s scope and substance, particularly its strong protections for special, sensitive, and unique marine resources, noting that 11 categories of ocean wildlife and habitat areas are “particularly vulnerable to certain ocean uses such as sand and gravel mining and construction on the seafloor.”


Massachusetts

A news release from the Conservation Law Foundation says that environmental advocates hailed the release of the Massachusetts Ocean Management Plan as a giant step toward achieving enduring stewardship of the state’s ocean waters and described it as a “critical first building block for the Obama Administration’s effort to develop a National Ocean Policy built around regional ocean management plans.” The foundation and Mass Audubon praised the plan’s scope and substance, particularly its strong protections for special, sensitive, and unique marine resources, noting that 11 categories of ocean wildlife and habitat areas are “particularly vulnerable to certain ocean uses such as sand and gravel mining and construction on the seafloor.”


Montana

In early February, Ash Grove Cement Co. announced plans to reopen its Jefferson County plant and call back approximately 50 workers. The Helena Independent Record notes that the workers were expected to report for work in mid-February as the demand for cement picks up after a sluggish two years. The newspaper reported that, although the worker recall “might not be the ultimate signal that the recession is turning the corner…it sure is a good indicator that the litmus test of the upcoming construction season — the demand for cement products — is promising.”


Nevada

Las Vegas Paving gave formal notice that it will challenge a federal judge who ordered Clark County to award Fisher Sand and Gravel a contract to improve the northern Las Vegas Beltway. According to Las Vegas Review-Journal, the appeal is expected to be filed in late March with the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, with the main issue revolving around whether the judge overreached by imposing a bid award rather than letting county commissioners handle it. An attorney for Las Vegas Paving estimates that it will be a year before the appeal is heard. Until then, the county can’t hire a contractor to improve the Beltway section in the middle of the dispute.


New Hampshire

Nearly 40 Weare residents attended a planning board meeting asking the board not to endorse an amendment on the town warrant allowing a proposed asphalt plant. According to the Concord Monitor, the residents were successful in their mission as the board voted 4-1 not to recommend the amendment. Chris Bolton, owner and operator of Mt. Williams Inc., a sand and gravel company, backed the amendment which would allow him to site an asphalt plant at the same location as his gravel pit. Under his petition, the plant would be permitted as an accessory use to the existing gravel operation, and its size would be limited to 25 percent of the combined annual sales of both plants. The amendment will still appear before voters on the warrant, but without the planning board’s endorsement.


New Jersey

Borough officials and quarry owners — at odds over a three-year operating license renewal — agreed on what information should be included in an engineering report necessary for permit approval. NorthJersey.com reports that Saddle Mountain LP anticipates mining below 370 feet above sea level, and city officials are looking for a protocol that shows there will be no negative effects from mining at that depth. Jeremy Vogel, attorney for Saddle Mountain, said the company wants to cooperate with concerns about its effect on the area. “We have the right to go below 370 feet and don’t need to do anything more,” Vogel said, “but in an effort to show that we want to accommodate everyone, we will submit the protocol.”


North Dakota

Dickinson-based Fisher Sand & Gravel Co. was recognized by the Mine Safety and Health Administration’s Rocky Mountain District with three awards for safety achievements in 2008. The Bismarck Tribune reports that the awards are for man-hours worked without a lost-time accident and for being citation-free during two mandatory inspections. Three Fisher locations were recognized: the Billings, Mont., site managed by Jim Rahr; the Glendive, Mont., site managed by Loren Boese, and a portable North Dakota operation managed by Joel Meyer. The company also received 13 Safe Mine Achievement Awards for 2008.


Pennsylvania

According to the Pittsburgh Tribune Review, Cemex Inc. plans a temporary layoff of 124 workers at its cement plant in Wampum beginning March 19. The company will continue to produce cement until the layoffs begin and will stockpile cement for future shipping. Jennifer Borgen, a spokesman at the company’s Houston headquarters, told the newspaper the company is shutting down cement production because of the drop in cement demand.


Texas

In a 3-2 vote, Travis County Commissioners Court approved the site development permits for Texas Industries’ proposed Hornsby Bend sand and gravel operation near Webberville. The Austin Chronicle notes that the vote had been postponed at an earlier meeting after the Fort Worth office of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers said it had been alerted by an area resident about the development and wanted to meet with TXI to review the project for potential Corps jurisdiction under the U.S. Clean Water Act. The Corps’ Stephen Brooks later wrote TXI that “We have determined this project will not involve activities subject to the requirement of Section 404 [of the Clean Water Act] or Section 10 [of the Rivers and Harbors Act]. Therefore, it will not require Department of the Army authorization.” The area resident, Ryan Metz — an environmental consultant — called the Corps’ decision “disappointing to say the least.”


Province news

A seam in the deposit led to an unusually loud blast from Walker Industries’ Niagara Falls quarry. According to a report in The Niagara Falls Review, John Fisher, president of the company, said it completed an investigation of its Jan. 25 blast and determined it was due to blasting rock with a crack in it. “What we concluded was there was an anomaly in the rock that allowed energy to escape through a crack in the rock,” Fisher told the newspaper. “It’s unusual for us to have a situation like that.”

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