Coping: With Bad Local Government, Open Pit Mine

imageNormally, I don’t write about the local goings on here in the backwoods of East Texas.  Usually it’s because there isn’t anything to write about.

But Monday, Elaine and I went to the county council meeting (In Texas this is called  “commissioner’s court”) with a bunch of neighbors because an open pit mining operation (sand and gravel, crusher) has gone in down the street from us.  Aerial photo is from February 19th of this year.

More than 100 loads per day of loaded semis  and six-wheelers are going past our property now.  Thankfully, the house is 1,500 feet from the road.  But it doesn’t help property values, and it has wrecked quiet enjoyment of the Outback.

Ure’s truly – who until this year had a paved road on two sides of his property – has now been reduced to a paved road on one side and a narrow single-track dirt road on the other.  It turns into an off road mudding track when it rains.

We are not anti-progress, and we don’t deny that the operator of the open pit mine has a right to develop the property any way they want – including scaring and defacing it, if that’s what makes them happy.

But when it comes to impacting other people’s lives?  Inconveniencing and reducing property values of surrounding homes?  Well, that’s a different matter.  Since one of my paved roads has been stolen and my property value thereby decreased, I figure the County ought to make things right.

In case you hadn’t figured it, Texas doesn’t have much in the way of environmental regulations.  Big money in the oil and gas business has pretty much neutered environmental protection.  And, in fact, the Texas Department of Environmental Quality specifically says they can’t do anything about noise complaints or impacts of property values.

Neither, as it turns out, can county government.

If you have a gypo-mining operation, Texas is heaven on earth.

A group of us (half dozen spoke) at the “commissioner’s court” (*equivalent to county commission meeting most other places) recounted the various problems including noise, dust, being run off the road, being unable to walk or bike ride in the area, and so on.

One neighbor even reported that the Insurance Information Institute shows that when large dump trucks and cars get in accidents, the odds of a fatality (among car occupants) is about 33%.,

In my own remarks, I explained things this way:

If I were to blow up a bridge owned by Anderson county, you’d have the local constabulary arrest me post haste, throw me in jail and make me pay for the damage if I could.

But when gypsy truckers come in and ruin a county asset (like 10-miles of road) the cost of repairing the road is not born by those who ruined the county asset –  You the commissioners expect EVERYONE IN THE COUNTY to put up with being screwed a little more on taxes so the pit profiteers can make money.

Then there’s the county a”judge”.  Instead of listening to the community and reducing speed limits, requiring oiling and watering to keep dusty down, and reducing weight limits on the road,, and other reasonable actions, according to rumor he’s going to ask for a “petition” from the community.

This is making up government on the fly. 

This is how it runs in the small town South.  They have learned from football how to “run the clock” and all the while, the hundred plus loads of gravel per day will keep tearing up the roads.

Of course, I’m not at all satisfied with this turn of events, especially the “running the clock” move by asking for a petition. 

I am  on the verge of taking out an ad in the local newspaper and on local radio calling out the county judge and explaining to everyone in Anderson County that the commissioners are letting an open pit mining operator ruin roads for profit and sticking it to the future public with the bill.

And/Or, I’m looking at a website like www.fixourdamnroads.com or some such.

And then there’s the matter of elections.

Buying Local Government

I pulled the campaign disclosure records of what it costs to buy a commissioner job in  this part of the world:  Less than $20,000 for county judge and less than a couple of thousand if you are looking for a commissioner position.

Wait!  Did I say buy?  Well, yes.  Politicians are in the business of buying their offices.  Or did you miss that in civics class?

They raise money by telling good fairytales and then they buy advertising and then (quite delusionally) convince themselves that they represent “the people.”  In fact, they represent the money that puts ‘em in office.  51% squeaker elections get pointed to as “clear mandates.”

I didn’t move out to the sticks to have my life ruined by the noise of trucks running from  around 6 AM  until 5PM, five or six days a week. 

Nor did I move out here to have my property values pillaged by local profiteers who have figured a grand scam:  Find a county with 60-mile an hour speed limits on roads narrower than your driveway which aren’t even paved in the first place (they use oil sand due to costs).  And then ruin them while sticking every taxpayer in the county with the bill.

Then, if they’re really lucky, the county judge (commissioner) will be paralyzed and will “run the clock” with procedural delays (like a petition which doesn’t show up in law that I’ve been able to see) and so forth.

I’m not going to “go Trump” on them.  But I told the group that the community is warning them.  School buses will be running on these roads in a month and I just don’t see on a 16-foot wide dirt road how a school bus and loaded semi full of gravel with limited sight distances going 60 MPH is a good thing.

But then, I don’t hold office  – partly because I’m not patient and mostly because I’m not part of the “old boy network” that still exists in the South.

Come election time, since commercials are cheap, I plan to run an Anyone but the incumbents if we don’t get some local satisfaction out here on the road problem.

And it’s not like we’re the only place in the country where overweight trucks on under posted roads is happening.

People in Pennsylvania and North Dakota have the same problem.  In comes industry and fracking and here come the road issues.

The Wall St. Journal ran a 2012 piece on how Dewitt County was suing the state for more dough to repair roads down in the Eagleford shale area.  They lost.

Ures truly will lose, too…at least at first.

But eventually, someone besides me will figure out that roads are a public asset and that those – like the county “judge” and commissioners here – who are squandering a public asset for the private gain of pit mine operators – are guilty of malfeasance or misfeasance of office.

Not that it matters:  In Texas, the only public officials subject to recall at those in Charter Cities.  Like looking out for the property rights of surface land owners, Texas has turned a blind eye to environmental justice.

So when you hear any of the Texas presidential wannabes claim how great the Texas economy is doing, let’s wait a few years when the deferred costs of “good old boy development” show up.  And then let’s look at the true cost of Texas’ “economic success story.”

I can turn any state you want into a flash-in-the-pan economic miracle, as long as you turn a blind eye to the wastewater injection wells, the ruined roads, and the imminent danger posed by development laws that ignore the little people in order to help the rich get richer.

That I’m sad to report, is corporatized government at its very worst.

Oh, and if you can find a good environmental lawyer in Texas who works cheap – or for a piece of the action – have them got hold of me,.

Write when you break-even,

George  george@ure.net

Comments

Coping: With Bad Local Government, Open Pit Mine — 30 Comments

  1. Hey George,

    Those electromagnetic thingies will blow out a vehicle’s electrical system, and WILL stop a modern common rail diesel in its tracks! These engines, unlike traditional diesels, use a mechanical high pressure hydraulic type pump and high voltage electronic injectors driven from a computer. There is no traditional injector pump.

    They’re a bear to maintain compared to the good old mechanical diesels, but EPA is forcing them on to modern vehicles.

  2. yeah public forest lands get buzz cuts and the good ol forestry boys run a sideline out of it. Makes for gruesome recreational experiences.

    Perhaps your mining neighbors hire American workers, unlike another business where my family member was laid off, but the Korean HB-1 (or whatever his status is) was not. I appreciate the news link a few days ago about how real the immigration/foreigner issue has become. Am praying it gets major upheaval after next election.

  3. Why don’t you build a parallel road just inside your property and charge tolls? You might have to call the fees something else, like entrance fees or something.

  4. What do mean Texas has no environmental regulations.Austin just banned BBQing in your own yard.

  5. George – nice blog. I encountered the same scenario in SW OK. You see I retired from a high stress job to a country farm only to have a rock quarry start up 6 months after I’d spent my life savings on building a home, barn, and other improvements. I had many meetings with land and mine owners not to mention numerous meetings with the County Commissioner, truckers, and nearby land owners . In spite of it all those meetings, those 10 ton WPA bridges in front of my house were getting round tripped by way over a hundred 18 wheelers exceeding 40 tons going 60 mph down my 40 mph road – a road that used to be blacktopped but wouldn’t support all the weight and traffic so it had to be chipped and returned to gravel. In fact the dust from the truckers was so bad, that I expected a head on collision daily from the dust clouds that were producing zero visibility when one passed. All that resulted from my meetings was the LACK of being notified before blasting. And imagine what that would do to a Murrah bombing survivor such as myself (rescuer). My wife has COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and the dust was greatly worsening her condition beyond description. So, now we have a health issue as well as environmental so who cares? And finally I came to 2 conclusions – sell or sue. If lawsuit were the solution, they would settle 10 years later and open up as a different company pending judgement since an LLC. And just maybe my wife would still be alive. So, I have sold and regretted it ever since with at least some sanity intact but thats debatable. That’s the greatly shortened version. Good luck with your journey and don’t let the b#@tards get to you.

  6. Yes, we know how Texas cooks the books.!. All the job gains in the last 10 plus years have gone to illegals…IF that isn’t a DRAIN on our resources and a COST directly paid by the Taxpayers I do not know what is!!!! We are the sanctuary city capital of the USA!!!

  7. George In Bastrop Co. TX we have lots of oil trucks on our rural roads doing much damage, Our Co Commissioners went after them and got lots of money to fix the roads.
    Stop throwing rocks at TEXAS! your problem could be in almost any rural county in America. You think Oregon is so great OMG
    they don’t even own their own rain water.R

  8. sounds like they’ve forgotten that trains can shift a lot of stuff even with a temporary set up…..

  9. Open on mobile canteen on the road there make some money off of it,heck the county is why not you

    • Get your tractor out in make a pullover on your land next to the road for the truckers to pull in and buy whatever it is that you want to sell

    • Urban survival mining equipment urban survival leasing and sales urban survival trucking company Urban Survival truck repair URBANSURVIVAL CASINOS AND BRUNCH
      GEORGES ROAD SIDE CASINO

  10. Having lived in Houston for awhile(glad I’m not there right now, too hot!!) with a high rise a few blocks away, the only thing that protected our house from having a high rise next door were the CC&R’s of the 1960’s housing development where we lived. Perhaps you and your neighbors could band together and develop something like that, complete with speedbumps.

  11. As I have written before, George, it isn’t necessary for you to move to a second world country for retirement, just wait a few years and you will be living in one. Problem is, your fixed costs of retirement will continue to be 100 times more than mine, and your government a thousand times more predatory of your wealth and freedom.

    Please make a comment on the USA infrastructure site I sent you, where the USA has a “D” grade from back in 2013. To put it bluntly, American’s are living in a country that can no longer afford to maintain its infrastructure, which was only affordable in the first place because of exploitation of other countries for their resources. And yes folks, me included, the greatest country in the world got that way by exploitation, starting with the American Indians and it has never stopped, evidenced by the 100 plus military bases around the world financed by a military budget that exceeds the rest of the world COMBINED! If you don’t think this possible, may I suggest the book The Economic Hit Man.

    When they use your tax money to defend themselves and their actions, you simply cannot win. That is the equivalent of financing the army you are fighting against. In the history of the world, this situation is only solved by violence, either by citizens or by invaders who are welcomed by the oppressed. Until the funds are cut off for those doing you wrong, it’s just a business model, one that works fiendishly well for those in power.

    But I don’t think you are going to really get this until the county assesses adjoining landowners for the costs of upgrading the roads for this mine or some othe equivalently appalling decision. All I have to say is where the hell were you when the permit for this mine was issued?

    The best I can say about the USA these days is that it is a country where there are no longer any good decisions to be made because of all the suboptimal decisions already made for you by your government.

    And keep in mind that after the TPP and the TAPI agreements are implemented, if you were effective in getting the mine shut down, the loss of profits by the mining company could be recovered from your local government, determined by a mediation panel of international lawyers, not the USA courts.

    • Well said. “Local control” is really THE “NOW” issue as the federal and state govs at the behest of Corporations are moving to disallow citizen’s decisions about their own living environments. As we speak, Congress is moving to rescind Vermont’s GMO labeling law (and forbid same in ALL states). Welcome to your 21st century feudalism.

  12. Your site has posted many articles mentioning electromagnetic thingamajigs. Some can theoretically stop vehicle engines. Maybe this knowledge could be harnessed to surreptitiously disrupt the activity of giant threatening gravel trucks. No one would be injured. Large metal things would simply stop moving. This could make the mining operation uneconomical to continue.

  13. Your site has posted many articles mentioning electromagnetic thingamajigs. Some can theoretically stop vehicle engines. Maybe this knowledge could be harnessed to surreptitiously disrupt the activity of giant threatening gravel trucks. No one would be injured. Large metal things would simply stop moving. This could make the mining operation uneconomical to continue.

    • Those electromagnetic things will blow out a vehicles electric al system, alright. but it won’t stop a diesel engine that is running. Like your thinking, however.

    • that’s strange. lots of EMD locomotives quit running when one of the many black boxes goes bonkers.
      So does my diesel truck, built in 2000.

      hit the electrical angle Geo.

  14. George , go about it from a different angle , get the road declasified as a county road , that sugestion at a comsioners meeting worked wonders as the daries ( quaries / money )round here grade the road in turn with the county , at hay delivery time they have a loading shovel ready to fill in the holes dug by their delivery trucks , better to share the grading with the county than pay for it all .

  15. …sorry about your road…also sorry to let you know that it’s RURAL east Texas,and having lived on the same county road for 36 years l can state that nothing will change.The county could care less that a handful of people are inconvenienced…you can petition and go to meetings every day, it will not affect your situation. (Trust me..been there done that…)Your county is making money from the mining operation:you are a little fish in this pond…you can move, or move…TPTB do not care.

    • …BTW, those big trucks will indeed ruin the road…ask the county roads dept.to fix it…ha!

  16. Hi George,

    This is one of the few areas I disagree with you. Yes, the trucks are a nuisance, but a much greater one would be having to deal with hordes of bureaucrats wanting to bother you for the slightest thing, like adding an outlet, changing a water heater, or collecting the rain. I’d much rather live and let live than the reverse.

    Obama has become the micromanaging petty bureaucrat occupying our White House. He’s the ultimate example of what happens when too many people want the government to do something for them. I always avoid asking the government for anything, and refuse their offers of things for me. I simply want to live quietly without any interaction with them, regardless of what I might choose to do, as long as it doesn’t hurt others. I avoid public hearings as they are generally boring as hell, unless they turn into mob scenes, and I’ve never gained anything by going to one.

    There may be a middle ground on the road, like getting the company to repave it and widen it, or even put a parallel road in place for their use. They could run heavy on the parallel road, and come back empty on the public road.

    They have the trucks and material and could possibly just provide it to the county for free, if the county repaved the road.

    Generally, I’ve found that we only get to enjoy the rights that we allow to others.

  17. Okay, so here’s the solution for all these trucks running up and down the road. You, and all the like-minded neighbors I’ll bet you have, band together and make the road unusable for the big rigs. One at a time, drive an excavator up to a particular section of road and start digging a ditch, deep and wide enough to make it impossible for these large trucks to go across. When the first person gets arrested, as you know he/she will, and the ditch gets filled up by the county (it’s your money, you decide how it gets spent) the next person chooses another section of the road and does the same thing. I figure you have more people who care enough about this than they have patience to keep playing the game. It’s probably only a misdemeanor for mischief with a good lawyer, and if you get exposure, as you probably will, you’ll probably have to run for JE after embarrassing this schmuck.

    Disclaimer: Not that I specifically condone civil disobedience, sometimes it has served an important purpose in getting social issues into a position to be changed.

  18. First off, let me express my regret on hearing about your situation – the ability for you to have ‘quiet satisfaction’ of your land has been severely impacted . . .

    And I appreciate the community wide problem of having the overly loaded trucks on the same roads as other traffic (as well as the school buses) – the damage to the surface is sure to be very wearing, and will be expensive to maintain. I bet that this company will not in any way be willing to contribute extra funds for the extra damage that they have caused.

    However, having said that – and I do also appreciate that you are more sensitive to the situation than most in Texas – it should not be terribly surprising for this to have happened. ‘Texas’ and Texans as a group – at least from the viewpoint of this Oregonian, have always been consistent in refusing to consider the environmental costs of any type of development. (Oregon, while unfortunately lax of late, has at least tried to varying degrees and varying success rates, to keep some balance regarding ‘land use’.)

    While you have addressed this in your blog – the one aspect you have missed is that the change needs to come in the hearts and minds of your fellow Texans and in the laws of Texas . . . a daunting task at the very least, and it will take decades . . .

  19. Can’t understand all the chatter on the drop in the Chinese markets, for after all that’s what any honest market does to wipe out the excess’s, well except our manipulated market that is.!!!!

  20. I’m totally with you George on the road issue. Maybe if you point out to the judge and council what the cost will be to the county from the lawsuit after the school bus is hit by the dump truck, and their personal liability for not taking action after it was brought to their attention, they will rethink the small remuneration they are getting from business developers.

    • I feel your pain, George. For a little over 12 years, I was a development director for five of the for profit specialty hospital chains, from handling state certificate of need apps to developing local community and medical societies, and most importantly, handling zoning issues in 44 states, where the real battle for and against new projects is decided. The difficulty of these zoning issues has been compared to those involved in the development of prisons and toxic waste dumps, and I have seen $100 mil projects stopped dead in their tracks by two enterprising locals who drove up in a faded van with a hazardous warning label affixed to the side, only to jump out and put on hazmat suits, while they grabbed a dolly to grab two rusty, oily barrels (painted on the side with a hazmat symbol, roll them to the van, load them up, and then jump back in and speed away. Where did this occur? On the hospital site, just before the groundbreaking ceremony commenced but just after the local TV cameras rolled. The scramble by reporters from one end of the 12 acre site to the other to reach the two before they left was a sight to see! I knew the project was dead at that point. It did not matter what the attorneys did, or what the company did. The court of public outrage and fear decided the future of a much needed hospital that will now never be built. Now, I have to say that this extreme case was offset by the client that I represented who was being fined and threatened by a Planning and Zoning Commission in California who caved to local pressure that a superbly constructed $200,000 deck was partially blocking their view of the Pacific ocean. In this sad case, the owner/builder who had lived in his house far longer than any of the complainants, got his retainer money back after I visited a City Council meeting in Laguna Beach, during which a group of local “artists” were demanding a zoning regulation exemption from having to remove a most Godawful 20 foot lawn fountain, constructed out of 17 rusting water heaters, which they built without any permit whatsoever. They won, since the Council decided that other home owners’ rights did not trump “artistic license”. I just couldn’t take my client’s money when I knew there would be no logical justice to be found in that community. Now, I shared this response with you to get your attention. Many of the commenters on are the right track, but there are some specific suggestions I would make to you for your situation. I am not an attorney, I have held a real estate license in both California and Texas, and I always love to strike a blow for logical reasoning, truth, and justice. If I got your attention, please look for an email today from me. If not, ignore it, no harm done. We are all here to help one another.

  21. George-I am aware that many people in Upper New York State complain about our very high taxes. Road construction and repair is ongoing. The “frackers” have made a valiant effort but inspite of the sympathies of our governor and the DEC, local county groups have raised their voices for maintaining the potable water and local roads and bucolic atmosphere of the counties and won with a statewide ban on fracking. Now we are fighting two gas lines that want to blaze thorough the state. Letters to any and all state and local legislators,newspapers/ongoing environmental studies,voices from victims in nearby Pennsylvania, local outraged voices at town,county and state meetings have still not stopped. We love our state and we PAY for it and we demand that residents be heard and listened to.KB

  22. Throw Oklahoma into your list and add a few earthquakes daily on top of the road problem and newby truck drivers into that soup! Crazy!