Tag Archives: Adam Friedman

Goliad County Officials and Residents Board Buses Tuesday for TCEQ Decision on Uranium Mine

Administrative Law Judge Recommends, Deny Permit for UEC Failure to Protect Water
Goliad County Commissioners, Ground Water Conservation District officials, and concerned farmers, landowners and other residents of the Goliad area are preparing to travel to Austin on Tuesday to hear a decision by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) on a permit application by Uranium Energy Corporation (UEC) for an in situ leech (ISL) uranium mine.

“The area where UEC wants to mine uranium contains many drinking water wells,” said Art Dohmann with the Goliad County Ground Water Conservation District.  “Water is the lifeblood of our county.  We are deeply concerned that UEC must not be allowed to contaminate and destroy our underground drinking water with the heavy metals and radio-nuclides they would stir up in the uranium mining process.”

Texas State Administrative Law Judge Richard Wilfong (the Judge) reviewed a contested case brought by the County and Ground Water District and recommended that the TCEQ deny the permit based on a failure to demonstrate the company can adequately protect drinking water.  The U.S. Safe Drinking Water Act and the Texas Water Code require that the no injection well permit may be issued that causes contamination of an underground source of drinking water.

“The Judge did the right thing and we sincerely hope the Commissioners will follow the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Texas Water Code and deny this permit,” said Attorney Rob Baiamante who representing Goliad County.  “Goliad County residents currently enjoy their right to an excellent source of underground drinking water and this company must not be allowed to ruin it.”

Baiamonte and Attorney Adam Friedman, with the Houston-based firm Blackburn-Carter representing the Ground Water Conservation District expect that the three TCEQ Commissioners will most likely make one of three potential decisions —
1.  Deny the permit based on the ALJ’s legal recommendation.
2.  Send the application back requiring additional water testing and an additional hearing.  This would be an added financial burden on the County and Ground Water District and would assist the applicant’s effort.
3.  Disregard the ALJ’s recommendation and approve the permit leaving the protective responsibility of upholding the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Texas Water Code to the Region VI office of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Mary Anklam who farms next to the site where UEC wants to mine said, “The exploration for uranium alone caused sales of our goats to drop and we went out of that business.  It would be a crime for UEC to be allowed to ruin the water that we drink and use on our farm.  The Judge was right to recommend that TCEQ should not give this company a permit.  We are asking the TCEQ to apply the Safe Drinking Water Act and the Texas Water Code and protect us and our neighbors and not just help this company make money by exporting dangerous uranium.”
The TCEQ Commissioners’ Hearing on the UEC application will take place Tuesday, December 14 at 9:30 AM at the TCEQ headquarters in Austin, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Austin, Building E, conference room 201-S.  The item will refer to SOAH Docket Number 582-09-3064 and TCEQ Docket Number 2008-1888-UIC.
Goliad County officials and residents encourage the media and public to attend.
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Senator Hegar Hears Citizen Concerns about TCEQ Sunset

Senator Glen Hegar, Chair of the Texas Sunset Advisory Commission

More than a hundred Texas Coastal Bend residents gathered Monday at Victoria City College to talk about serious concerns with TCEQ.  The standing room only meeting was hosted by the Goliad area Crossroads Town Hall committee.

Richard Gill was the lead organizer of the event:

My priorities as organizer were two-fold: to provide a venue for area citizens to learn about the Sunset Review process and how they can have an impact on that process, and second, to give the public the kind of face-to-face dialogue with the decision makers which we rarely have.

Gill served in Iraq as a remote duty medic until returning to Texas to care for a family member with recurrent cancer. As a former emergency room nurse Richard’s concerned with public health issues. This concern led to his opposing the expansion of the Coleto Creek coal plant within view of his home between Victoria and Goliad.

Moderated by Goliad County realtor and historian Raulie Irwin, panelists at the Crossroads Town Hall were: Senator Glen Hegar, Chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission;  Larry Soward, a former, Perry-appointed Commissioner of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ);  Donna Phillips, TCEQ Area Director for Coastal and East Texas;  and Adam Friedman of the Houston law firm Blackburn & Carter.

Senator Hegar described how the Sunset process works with its December 15 public meeting in Austin.  “The sunset review process as we do it here in Texas is unique because it provides so many opportunities for the public to be involved.”

Among other issues, citizens from across the Coastal Bend region raised concerns in verbal and written comments.  They addressed loopholes in the TCEQ process that appear to allow:

  • Air and water pollution from proposed new coal plantsWhite Stallion in Matagorda County, Las Brisas in Corpus Christi, and the expansion of the Coleto Creek coal plant between Goliad and Victoria;
  • Existing and potential groundwater contamination from uranium mining activities north of Goliad and south of Kingsville;
  • Threat of groundwater contamination from increasing gas fracking in the Eagle Ford shale;
  • Financially punitive regulation of water systems in small, rural churches.

Many of the environmental issues raised last night transcend county lines.  

Alison Sliva of Matagorda County No Coal Coalition asks Senator Hegar to close loopholes that permit coal plant pollution.

Pollution from Coal Plants

Ground level ozone smog from coal plant emissions is a growing concern.  With Coleto Creek coal plant recently permitted by TCEQ for expansion (though it will likely be appealed), and two other, Coastal Bend area coal plant applications under consideration by TCEQ for permitting – White Stallion in Matagorda County and Las Brisas in Corpus Christi, the region is threatened by significant new sources of air pollution and resultant health impacts.

Gill says he’s concerned about his town’s ozone compliance, “What happens in one county doesn’t stay there.  Pollutants travel, so we have to be concerned in Victoria about what happens all along the coast, too.”

Several members of the Matagorda County-based No Coal Coalition spoke of their opposition to the White Stallion coal plant.  TCEQ will vote Wednesday, September  to permit or deny White Stallion at the TCEQ Commissioner’s meeting in Austin.

At the Town Hall meeting, one Matagorda County resident, Bill Key asked the panelists if White Stallion would lead to increased health problems from asthma.  Senator Hegar and Attorney Adam Friedman concurred with Soward’s response that White Stallion will cause increased health impacts.  TCEQ’s Donna Phillips said that she didn’t know.

Matagorda County physician W. Barton Griffiths, MD then stood and cited figures for potential health impacts from White Stallion if built. MSB Energy Associates used EPA valuation methodologies to calculate that over a 60 year span of operation, White Stallion would result in:

  • Deaths of over 600 Matagorda County residents
  • 1,070 people could suffer from heart attacks.
  • Chronic bronchitis, costing victims $229 million
  • An estimated 93,720 days of lost work
  • 552,730 days of reduced activity and productivity, accounting for a total of $42.9 million.

Adam Friedman of Blackburn & Carter law firm shows Uranium Energy Corporation map of proposed uranium mining operations.

Uranium Mining Concerns

Kleberg County is currently challenging one company Uranium Resources Inc. in court for failure to restore groundwater quality after ‘in situ leech’ uranium mining in the historic Garcia Hill area near Ricardo south of Kingsville. 

“My family was directly affected by uranium mining.” says Ann Ewing, president of South Texas Opposed to Pollution, “In 1996, EPA sent us a letter stating that our water, which was sourced from a water well, was no longer fit for human consumption and that was a direct effect of uranium mining in the area.”

Ewing pointed to TCEQ’s practice of amending the agreed-upon water quality restoration requirements which are part of the companies’ permits to mine uranium.  She pointed to a study concluding that few to no uranium mining operations in Texas have restored ground water quality after uranium mining contamination.

“If you use water, you’re involved,” says Robin Sherwood, a resident of Goliad County, “the uranium mining in Goliad County isn’t just about Goliad.  Ground water doesn’t stop on the county line.”

Sherwood says she’s concerned about the contamination of her ground water from proposed uranium mining and thinks everyone should take interest in this matter.  TCEQ is currently considering whether or not to allow another uranium mining company Uranium Energy Corporation to mine in the drinking water aquifer just north of Goliad.

Sunset Review Opportunities

Organizers of last night’s Crossroads Town Hall, pointed to the Legislature’s decennial Sunset Review of TCEQ as a rare opportunity for significant improvements in Texas’ environmental and health regulations. The groups said they support reforms and regulations to keep communities healthy.

Panelist Larry Soward observed, “This Town Hall Meeting afforded the citizens of this area a good opportunity to express a lot of the deep frustration and lack of confidence they, and other citizens all across Texas, have with the way TCEQ carries out its responsibilities, and to have that heard by both Senator Hegar and the TCEQ.”

Charlie Faupel, Chair of Citizens for a Clean Environment voiced a note of doubt.  Faupel’s Reaser Ranches is directly across Coleto Creek reservoir from the coal plant.  “I’m not sure this organization (TCEQ) can be saved, at least under the current administration,” says Charlie Faupel, “TCEQ needs a serious house cleaning.”

The third in a series of Town Hall meetings – the first was in Houston, will take place in Corpus Christi on October 7.

Residents of Senator Hegar’s district will have another opportunity along with residents from across the State to ask for specific changes to TCEQ at the Sunset Advisory Commission public hearing on December 15 in Austin.

Participants in the Alliance of Texans for Uranium Research and Action attended the event from Goliad, Corpus Christi, and Kingsville.

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