Pipelines, landfills and crazy winds top 2019’s stories
By Wesley Gardner
2019 is out and 2020 is in. We’ve officially left another decade behind with another news-filled year in Caldwell County.
Local city councils have seen a changing of the guard. The construction of a contentious pipeline in Caldwell County is on track. Court challenges submitted against a new landfill have failed, signaling the beginning of construction.
In short, plenty has happened over the last. Let’s take a look at the most noteworthy stories from 2019.
Local residents and businesses against the upcoming 130 Environmental Park landfill facility in Caldwell County were dealt a blow in October after a district court in Austin rejected challenges to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) permit for the project.
The battle over the facility has been ongoing since Sept. 2013, when Green Group Holdings, LLC, (now “Green Group”) announced their intentions to seek a permit for a municipal solid waste landfill from TCEQ. The 212-acre landfill would be a part of mixed-use development that would include the landfill, a transfer station, a facility for processing recyclable materials and an industrial park.
The development will be located in northern Caldwell County near the corner of SH 130 and FM 1185.
Those in favor of the project have argued it will be a part of a state-of-the-art facility that, with the rest of the planned environmental park, would ultimately attract more businesses, jobs and tax revenue to the community. Those opposed have amounted the proposed landfill to little more than a tower of trash that they allege could pose environmental risks to the county.
In Sept. 2017, TCEQ Commissioners voted unanimously to issue a permit for the landfill, determining the project met all of the standards set out in state statutes and TCEQ’s environmental and technical rules.
In response, a grassroots group of local residents, who came together to form “Environmental Protection for Caldwell County” (EPICC), teamed with property development group Texas Justice for All (TJFA) in an effort to fight the permit.
They were initially joined by Caldwell County, though commissioners ultimately opted to abandon litigation in Oct. 2017.
The permit was first approved following the recommendation of two administrative law judges who presided over a 10-day public hearing to gather evidence about the landfill facility’s compliance with state law.
During that hearing, witnesses for the 130 Environmental Park landfill and witnesses for several entities opposed to the project squared off, presenting testimony on issues ranging from measures to protect groundwater, to ensuring the facility will be compatible with surrounding land uses, to ways in which the project has been designed to prevent impacts to wetlands and floodplains.
District Court Judge Dustin Howell ultimately denied the challenges raised by opponents to the project, in effect affirming the permit.
Permian Highway Pipeline MOU approved
Also in October, Caldwell County Commissioners approved a memorandum of understanding between the county and developer Kinder Morgan, paving the way for construction to begin on the upcoming Permian Highway Pipeline.
The pipeline gained state and national media attention in July after a Texas district court judge threw out a lawsuit filed by Hays County, the City of Kyle and some individual landowners against Kinder Morgan that argued the project would endanger waterways and residential areas.
Caldwell County representatives decided not to join that lawsuit, instead opting to engage in negotiations with Kinder Morgan.
In Sept. 2018, Kinder Morgan representatives began to reach out to property owners whose land runs through the projected path of the pipeline to conduct civil and environmental surveys, as well as begin negotiations for easements on which to place the pipelines.
The MOU had been tabled by commissioners several times over the course of the year due to ongoing negotiations with affected landowners, but eventually passed in October.
The MOU outlines specific considerations laid out by county officials aimed at easing the impact and installation of the pipeline, such as providing traffic control near jobsites and keeping adjacent roadways free from debris, trash and mud.
According to the MOU, the county will be reimbursed for the cost of any measures the county may take in the interest of traffic safety, or restoration and repairs to county roads.
The MOU also stipulates that construction equipment and materials must be removed as far away from the roadside as possible at the end of workdays.
To read more, see this week’s edition of the Post-Register