Permit Conflict Muddies Tennessee Plant Construction
Volunteer Sand and Gravel is under fire in Tennessee for ignoring a cease-and-desist letter regarding construction of its plant on the banks of the Duck River. The operator has received some permits, including from the Tennessee Department of Conservation and Environment (TDEC), but withdrew its application for a permit from the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), which controls that river system, according to the Associated Press.
The TVA Act requires the public utility to approve any construction that could affect flood control, such as the pit mining operation and the berms the company is building around the site, all within the floodplain. Although Volunteer never received a TVA permit, it went ahead with construction.
TVA sent a cease-and-desist order in December 2020 and has followed up with three additional letters, but the company has reportedly not responded. Volunteer President Chad Swallows reportedly said in an email that the company determined it does not need a permit from TVA because the project “does not affect flood control.”
Several environmental groups are pushing TVA to take stronger action. In a recent letter, the groups urged TVA to seek a federal court injunction against Volunteer that would force the sand and gravel operator to stop construction.
Volunteer recently told TDEC it is on track to finish construction and begin producing material in June.
Oregon Quarry Project on Hold
The Lane County, Ore., board of commissioners voted to delay a decision on approving a quarry near Oakridge, Ore., so new testimony can be examined. Commissioners pushed back to August the decision to approve zoning changes and operations for the Old Hazeldell Quarry, a mine planned for TV Butte just outside Oakridge, according to the Register-Guard.
Since it was first proposed in 2015, Oakridge area residents have firmly opposed the quarry, citing concerns that wildlife, cultural sites and those living around TV Butte all will be disturbed and harmed by operations there. The board of commissioners approved the quarry twice, both times after opponents appealed their decisions to the state.
The Oregon Land Use Board of Appeals twice remanded the quarry site’s approval. County staff also got a letter from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife that may require further analysis before staff can recommend a decision for commissioners.
Court Denies Writ Petition Challenging County’s EIR, Approvals
In an 85-page opinion filed March 25, and modified and certified for partial publication on April 23, California’s First District Court of Appeal affirmed the Napa County Superior Court’s judgment denying a writ petition challenging the county’s Environmental Impact Report (EIR) and approvals for an expansion of Syar Industries Inc.’s aggregate mining operations at a quarry that has existed since the 1800s.
The court belatedly published about 25 pages of its lengthy opinion, portions of which addressed basic California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) principles, including standard of review and exhaustion principles, and the interplay of CEQA and general plan consistency issues.
The court relied heavily on its own prior opinion in South of Market Community Action Network v. City and County of San Francisco (2019) in setting out the general CEQA principles and standards governing its review in a case challenging an EIR’s content and analysis.
According to JDSupra, this case further illustrates how courts have consistently rejected litigants’ attempts to transform general plan consistency into a CEQA issue, and thus avoid the great judicial deference afforded to local agencies’ consistency determinations under well-established land-use law.
Canadian Quarry Permit Denied
According to the Brandon Sun, a proposal to kick-start new aggregate mining operations just south of Rivers is dead in the water, according to Minister of Agriculture and Resource Development Blaine Pedersen. The minister made this announcement during a question period in the Legislative Assembly after being prompted for an update on the quarry permit application process by River Heights, Manitoba, Canada, MLA Jon Gerrard.
“Our government recognizes that this particular piece of Crown land has significant environmental concerns,” Pedersen said. “And after careful review … I’m pleased to tell the member for River Heights, and to the people around Rivers, that the permit has been denied.”
This quarry permit was submitted by representatives from Western Asphalt Products, who wanted to establish surface mining operations roughly 10 km south of Rivers to extract sand, gravel and crushed stone from an area that’s around 10 acres in size.