Last Monday, Oct. 22, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) held a public gathering for feedback on the re-application of Soto Ready Mix, Inc.’s air quality permit for operation of a local concrete batch plant.
The new permit, if approved, would allow Soto Ready Mix, Inc., to operate the same type of facility at the same location (Desoto Street) as the previous application, which was struck down this past April.
Soto’s previous application was voided earlier this year due to the lack of a 100-foot setback required at various points on the property. In the process of re-application, Soto has purchased additional land to compensate and meet the setback requirement.
Residents reiterated their concerns and aired their grievances – such as air pollution, constant noise, harmful runoff – during a sometimes vociferous public comment period which lasted more than an hour.
“This is not us trying to be unreasonable, but expressing valid concerns about what is happening where we live,” resident Joel Dempsey said. “If something goes wrong here and these fears do become reality, we’re the ones who will pay the price – we should not have to do that when there are valid reports out there on the risks of this batch plant.”
“There are so many other places they could go nearby – so why don’t they? I’m disconcerted, and I don’t believe I’ve heard answers that make me feel comfortable,” Vicky Garcia added.
However, Soto Ready Mix representatives have insisted that Soto has gone through all the necessary preparations in order to mitigate the risks for the neighborhood, should the plant be approved.
They have also previously stated that residents have been belligerent towards Soto as he attempts to register the plant with TCEQ.
Mr. Soto spoke through an attorney at last week’s gathering. Attempts to reach Soto’s attorney for comment following the meeting were unsuccessful.
The public comment period for the plant ended at the conclusion of the Oct. 22 meeting. TCEQ staff is currently reviewing all of the comments received during the public comment period. The executive director will respond to all comments received during the comment period by filing a formal Response to Comments.
More than 60 written requests have been turned in for a contested case hearing on the application. Thus, once the RTC is filed, the Office of the Chief Clerk will schedule all timely hearing requests and any requests for reconsideration to be considered at a scheduled TCEQ public meeting.
However, TCEQ officials reiterated that simply a request being filed does not necessitate the granting of one.
Should a request for contested case hearing be granted, the commission will specify the number and scope of factual issues to be referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings and specify the maximum duration of the hearing.
“So long as we see you’re willing to reach across the aisle to us, Mr. Soto, we’ll do the same for you,” one resident said.
As of publication, a TCEQ spokesperson was unable to confirm any set date for completion of the approval process due to the sheer volume of input.