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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asks state to halt new cement plant permits until 2025


Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asks state to halt new cement plant permits until 2025

Apr 16, 2024 | 4:45 pm ET
By Alejandra Martinez
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick asks state to halt new concrete plant permits until 2025
Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick sent a letter to the state environmental agency asking it to stop approving new permits for cement plants statewide until the Legislature can weigh in next year. Patrick expressed concern about a planned cement plant in North Texas that residents oppose. (Maria Crane/The Texas Tribune)

Correction, : A previous version of this story incorrectly said that Lt. Gov. Patrick's letter asked the TCEQ to halt approving permits for concrete production plants. His letter asked TCEQ to halt approving permits for cement production plants. Cement is a component of concrete.

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Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick has asked the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, the state’s environmental agency, to halt approving permits for cement production plants in Texas until the 2025 legislative session.

Patrick’s letter to TCEQ Chair Jon Niermann on Tuesday comes after his visit to Sherman Monday night to listen to residents’ concerns over a proposed 600-acre cement plant and limestone quarry by Black Mountain Cement. The plant would be located behind a church in Dorchester, about 60 miles north of Dallas.

“I appreciate that TCEQ has a difficult job. You have a formula, and you follow it. However, as Lt. Governor, I must look at the bigger picture of what is best for our communities,” Patrick said in the letter to Niermann.

Patrick cited concerns from business leaders, elected officials, and residents about the plant’s potential impact on air and water quality. He said approving the plant’s permit could have detrimental impacts on the community and its economy.

Patrick’s letter said that despite a TCEQ review that concluded the plant would pose “no air quality danger to the area,” the community remained unconvinced and questions the accuracy of the agency's analysis.

TCEQ did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Patrick said the cement plant could impact other companies in Grayson County like GlobalWafers, a semiconductor chip manufacturer. The company’s spokesperson has expressed concerns about the cement kiln project's impact on its operations and warned of potential legal action if the project is approved.

Patrick warned that companies could avoid Grayson County or cancel expansion plans because of the cement plant, and as a result, “The Grayson County economy could lose billions of dollars of economic activity and hundreds, and potentially, thousands of high-paying jobs. This beautiful area and its robust economy could spiral downward and never recover.”

Patrick asked TCEQ to immediately halt the permitting processes for all cement production plants statewide “until the legislature can weigh in. Under no circumstances should this permit be expedited,” Patrick wrote.

The state Legislature’s next regular session begins in January 2025.

“Economic development is key to Texas' future. It is not yet clear that permanent cement production plants located in close proximity to Texas communities further that mission,” Patrick wrote.

Cement is a component used to create concrete, when mixed with sand and water. While Patrick's letter asked TCEQ to stop approving permits only for cement plants, communities across Texas have long complained about pollution from concrete plants, claiming that it contributes to health problems ranging from asthma to bronchitis to throat cancer. Many of them have been fighting new plants for years or trying to shut down existing ones.

Environmental advocates say the thousands of concrete batch plants in Texas disproportionately impact low-income communities of color. Dorchester is a majority white farming community.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the cement sector is the third largest industrial source of pollution nationally, emitting more than 500,000 tons per year of sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide, and carbon monoxide. The agency has found that the air pollution from concrete batch plants can increase the risk of asthma and cardiac arrest if people inhale too much of it. EPA scientists are currently conducting a study — the first in Texas — that will look at how the combined pollution from a cluster of concrete plants impacts public health.

Earlier this year, TCEQ announced new requirements for concrete batch plants that included increasing the buffer zones between communities and the plants, reducing dust coming from plants and lowering annual production limits.

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