KETR

Piece of Mind: Batch Plant Runs Into a Rough Patch

Apr 9, 2020

By JOHN KANELIS

A company known for plenty of high-tech advances wants to build a concrete plant near Farmersville and a key Texas government agency has decided to grant the company a permit to do so.

Martin Marietta’s wholly owned subsidiary, TXI Operations, ran squarely into a chilly reception from residents who contend the plant application doesn’t pass the environmental quality test that governs such activity. They have made their feelings known through various ways: public hearings and plenty of correspondence from elected officials to the company and to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.

TCEQ issued its approval for the plant on March 31 over the objections of residents who live near the site and over the objection of the entire North and Northeast Texas legislative delegation.

TCEQ conducted a public hearing in February to hear from the public. The public delivered in spades and it wasn’t music to the ears of TXI and Martin Marietta officials who were present to hear from the public. Despite the objections from those in attendance, the TCEQ staff recommended approval by the agency’s executive director. TCEQ says the company has met all the standards in the permit to allow it to proceed.

It’s a classic NIMBY issue, as near as many observers can tell. Farmersville residents say, “not in my backyard.” TCEQ didn’t respond to the complaints they heard at the public hearing; nor did TXI officials. Indeed, TCEQ stipulated at the beginning of the hearing that the ground rules wouldn’t allow any back and forth while residents were expressing themselves.

The North Texas legislative delegation, including state Rep. Jeff Leach, R-Plano, submitted a letter of protest to TCEQ. Leach was present at the hearing. Although his legislative district does not include Farmersville, he said he was speaking on behalf of delegation members who signed the letter. He accused TXI of “screwing” the residents of Farmersville. Rep. Justin Holland, a Rockwall Republican, represents Farmersville in the Legislature.

Holland continues to oppose the batch plant and will “work with constituents to make sure their needs are fulfilled,” according to a spokesman for Holland’s legislative office, who added that Holland’s major interest is in “representing the residents” of his district.

This is the second go-round for TXI. TCEQ denied an earlier request to build the batch plant, citing proximity issues with a nearby residence. TCEQ noted in its denial that the “central baghouse must be located at least 440 yards from any building used as a single-family residence at the time the standard permit registration is filed with the commission.” The baghouse was too close to the residence.

What did TXI do? It relocated its baghouse far enough away from the residence to avoid denial in a future application.

The relocation did the trick.

Martin Marietta wants to build the plant outside the city limits but within Farmersville’s extraterritorial jurisdiction. Building the plant inside the city limits would require a special use permit.

The new proposed plant application isn’t getting much of a welcome from residents, judging from the testimony gathered at TCEQ’s Feb. 25 public hearing in downtown Farmersville. About a dozen residents signed up to speak about the application. They all said they oppose it on various grounds, but all of which are centered on controls of the dust that flies out of operations such as what TXI and Martin Marietta are pitching.

McKinney, the Collin County seat community that sits about 15 miles west of Farmersville, has been haggling over whether to order similar operations shut down. The issue? Air quality and the emissions that come from two concrete batch plants – run by CowTown Redi-Mix and Martin Marietta – that had been operating in McKinney.

Those issues mirror the concerns expressed by Farmersville residents who want no part of a concrete batch plant in their community.

As for Martin Marietta’s response to the views expressed by residents, well, they aren’t talking.

Never let it be said that NIMBY responses don’t occur in a state supposedly known to be “business friendly.” What’s more, there might be more to say on this project as it proceeds. Something tells me the residents who oppose this plant haven’t yet spoken their last words.

John Kanelis, former editorial page editor for the Amarillo Globe-News and the Beaumont Enterprise, is also a former blogger for Panhandle PBS in Amarillo. He is now retired, but still writing. Kanelis can be contacted via Twitter @jkanelis, on Facebook, or his blog, www.highplainsblogger.com. Kanelis' blog for KETR, "Piece of Mind," presents his views, and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of KETR, its staff, or its members.

Kanelis lives in Princeton with his wife, Kathy.