Well, they jury’s in, and the water pollution discharge permit was approved.
The whole debate lasted about an hour an a half. The representative for Dos Republicas had 15 minutes to speak, and the protesting parties had a combined 15 minutes to speak as well. The representatives who opposed the permit included the Mayor of Eagle Pass, a state representative for Maverick County, land owners on Elm creek, and others. Each opposition representative had 3 minutes each to speak. TCEQ’s Environmental Law division also spoke about proposed amendments to the permit.
The opposition claimed that insufficient testing was done on Elm Creek to determine if it could handle the degradation. They also claimed that the actual mine operator, a contractual mining company, should be named and regulated by the permit as well. They argued that all of the coal energy and the economic benefit will go to Mexico, while the environmental effects will only happen in Eagle Pass. They pointed out that Dos Republicas has a terrible compliance history, and could pose a real danger to the Eagle Pass community. All arguments were ultimately dismissed.
In the end, not much was added on to the permit. In fact, a provision that required sampling for boron and aluminum was removed.
The concluding moments involved a lot of yelling and hysterics from the crowd. Protesters chanted, “we will stand, we fill fight, water is a human right” in the conference room. One lady went up to the commissioners to say, “We invite you over to Eagle Pass to drink the water. Take your children over to Eagle Pass to drink the water! How about that?” Others scorned the “Take Care of Texas” posters that adorn the headquarters, claiming hypocrisy. One particular couple kept repeating, “Who do we call? Who do we get in contact with?” into the microphone.
All in all, it was kind of a sad exchange to watch. The opposition looked doomed from the very start, even though many of their representatives brought up valid points.
I can only hope that the TCEQ knows what they’re doing.
Hopefully this rainy period will end soon, and the mine will close before the next one. Personally, I wouldn’t drink the water in Eagle Pass after heavy rains, when acidic mine drainage flows as freely as the stormwater. I think fish kills during a flooding event would also be very likely.
Time to make some coffee and get this bad taste out of my mouth.