AP NEWS

Senate Bill 694 doesn’t go far enough

February 26, 2019

State Sen. Donna Campbell is touting her latest piece of legislation, supposedly aimed at tightening restrictions on aggregate production operations (e.g., quarries, cement batch plants, etc.) Careful reading suggests Senate Bill 694 is nothing more than an attempt to not alienate the industry.

SB 694 states that inspections of quarries by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to monitor air and water quality may be conducted every two years and allows for unannounced inspections of operators previously cited for noncompliance.

Sounds good, right? Here’s the problem: Aggregate companies self-report compliance violations. The unannounced inspections would be made only if TCEQ cited the operator for a violation in the previous two years. The unannounced visit can only be conducted up to one year after the violation, and operators are not required to install air monitoring technology on-site.

In the press release accompanying the announcement of SB 694, Campbell noted, “SB 694 ensures that our air and water will be protected for future generations.”

Really? How is perpetuating giant loopholes for an industry that pollutes for profit going to accomplish that? An article by the Texas Tribune reports that an analysis found that Texas industrial facilities frequently exceed the emissions limits set in their TCEQ-issued air permits (“Report: Unauthorized air pollution in Texas up 27 percent in 2017,” Jan. 31).

What we need, Sen. Campbell, is legislation that: 1) mandates real-time data on emissions — not air model predictions — including active air monitoring stations near existing and proposed sites with data made available to the public; 2) establishes water well monitoring for water flow rate, well static level, and biological and chemical contamination; and 3) sets metering and public, third-party monitoring of all groundwater usage.

Then, maybe, we can all breathe a little easier.

Susan Randolph lives in Canyon Lake.