April 2017 Mayor's Message
I’m happy to report that our water source – the Carrizo/Wilcox aquifer system, is safe from contamination – for now.
Yes, I said for now. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) is the state’s version of the EPA. The TCEQ is the agency charged with issuing landfill permits. Last Wednesday, April 12th, the TCEQ met in Austin to determine whether or not to issue a permit to Post Oak Clean Green to build a landfill 9 miles east of Seguin. This landfill site is in the recharge zone of the Carrizo/Wilcox aquifer, and could potentially ruin the most precious natural resource we possess – abundant, pristine water.
At the hearing, virtually every government entity affected by the dump testified against it. I testified along with Mayor Carpenter of Schertz, and County Judge Kyle Kutscher. Representatives from the offices of State Representative John Kuempel and State Senator Judith Zafferinni also read letters of protest. Even the TCEQ’s own Office of Public Interest Counsel (OPIC) spoke in opposition to issuing the permit.
The only testimony for the dump came from their attorney, who gave a stumbling, lack-luster presentation.
What happened was frustrating, and not a knock-out punch to the Post Oak Dump, but I think we scored a standing eight-count. The commission hemmed and hawed, went back-and-forth, and kept scratching their heads, all the while talking about being “on the fence”. It was agonizing to watch.
In the end, the commission “remanded” the case. In other words, they are sending it back to the State Administrative Judge to review 4 issues – 1. Several abandoned oil wells within the site had not been plugged, and they should have been plugged even before the application was accepted, much less a permit issued. 2. The danger of possible bird-strikes by Air Force training jets flying out of the Randolph Auxiliary Airfield has to be further assessed and clarified. 3. Since most of the groundwater level measurements around the site were taken during a long-term drought, new groundwater level measurements must be taken. 4. Hours of operation need to be determined.
This whole process is enough to erode anyone’s confidence in the state’s bureaucracy. These commissioners sat up there and rattled off deficiency after deficiency – every one of which are enough to deny the permit – and they kept lamenting about being “on the fence”!
It was abundantly clear to those of us in attendance that the commission entered the room prepared to rubber-stamp the permit, but upon hearing clear evidence of deficiencies and the protestations of virtually every representative of our region, they had to find some way out. The entire discussion by the commissioners was damning to the applicants, but they could not bring themselves to deny the permit. I wanted to jump up and scream!
The commissioners kept talking about the “fairness” involved. Are you kidding me? Those folks had nearly 6 years to plug those wells – they knew they had to do it – and they didn’t do it! Deny the permit, for crying out loud!
I’m a proud Texan who wants to think that our state government is run on the “up and up”, but this really stinks. Something is terribly wrong up in Austin. The case for denial was clearly made, and the commissioners couldn’t bring themselves to make the right decision – except for commissioner Toby Baker, who voted to deny the permit. I just think the old adage about “follow the money” is very much in play in this instance.
The good news is that even though we haven’t knocked them out yet, we have struck a powerful blow to the “Post Oak Dumpsters”. We are still untouched, healthy, and prancing in the opposite corner while they are dazed, bleeding, and taking a standing eight- count. It’s time for a knock-out.
Gosh, I love this town!