The latest Hutto Citizens Group (HCG) newsletter [.pdf] get’s us up-to-date on the latest with the landfill and the transmission lines. First on the landfill:
It appears that the negotiations on a revised landfill contract have stalled out and that Waste Management (WMI) won’t discuss a contract until the county authorizes permit amendment expansion application 1405-B to move forward at the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). In the opinion of the Hutto Citizens Group (HCG), moving the permit forward at TCEQ with WMI’s name on it as Operator or Site Operator would be a disaster for the county and its citizens, because TCEQ’s approval of the permit amendment in that form would give WMI total control of the landfill, which also would mean that WMI would have no incentive to negotiate seriously on a revised contract that would be more beneficial for the county than the current contract (approved in 2003) now in effect.
In essence WMI’s case is they won’t negotiate unless the county gives up it’s leverage. What will the commissioners do? Well one thing they should do is seriously pursue an appeal against Judge Carnes’ ruling against the county.
Media reports, including interviews conducted by reporters with county representatives as well as members of the HCG, indicate that the county is simply leaving itself the option of following up with a serious appeal, but not committing to do so at the present time.
However, for the county to preserve the ability to move forward with an appeal without actually pursuing the appeal seriously makes little sense, if that actually is what is happening. What is the upside to a motion which would “reserve the right” to appeal if an appeal isn’t going to be seriously pursued? The intervenors are moving forward with their appeal because of a belief that there is excellent legal basis for doing so, and there appears to be no good reason why the county shouldn’t do the same.
The intervenors of course include the HCG. Also in the newsletter they go through recent PUC vote adopting the LCRA/Oncor Energy path of transmission lines through Hutto.
In addition to rubber-stamping the so-called “fishhook” route which will run along Limmer Loop and proximate to some Hutto ISD facilities, the commissioners also endorsed the location of the much-criticized, transmission-level substation on the west side of Hutto which sits adjacent to a residential subdivision. Noise from the substation facility is expected to be significant as it is enlarged to handle the higher electric loads.
The HCG is not happy that their proposed solution wasn’t even considered.
The City of Hutto and Hutto Citizens Group, who intervened in the case, in addition to Hutto-area citizens, previously had asked the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH), the LCRA, and the PUC to utilize right-of-way on the east side of SH-130 for the route of the lines, using monopole structures. However, when SOAH issued its Proposal for Decision (PFD), none of the six proposed routes included included the SH-130 scenario.
The omission of the Hutto citizens’ preferred route from the PFD occurred despite the major effort to have it included. As explained to the PUC commissioners at the meeting on September 11 by John Gordon, the expert witness for the City of Hutto and the HCG, his testimony regarding the preferred route at the SOAH hearing went without challenge through cross examination, yet Hutto’s view was dismissed, and the SH-130 route was not included among the six proposed routes.
Another interesting part is who did, and didn’t, show up to help the citizens of Hutto.
This unfortunate result–ignoring the preferred route along SH-130 using monopole structures–didn’t occur because Hutto failed to state its case at the SOAH hearing or at the PUC meeting on September 11. Gordon spelled out the situation clearly at SOAH, and at the PUC meeting on Thursday a retinue of speakers re-stated Hutto’s position. Those speakers included candidates for state representative from District 52 (Diana Maldonado, Democrat, and Brian Daniel, Republican), a candidate for the position of county attorney in Williamson County (Jaime Lynn, Democrat), the mayor pro-tem of the City of Hutto (David Begier), a Hutto city councilman (Felix Madrid) and the HCG president (Steven Salfelder). In addition to those speakers, also present supporting the Hutto position were Hutto city council members Debbie Holland and Ronnie Quintanilla-Perez, and Ed Broussard, the Hutto city manager.
Absent from the September 11 meeting at the PUC were the Williamson County attorney (Jana Duty), the Williamson County judge (Dan Gattis, Sr.), and the Williamson County Precinct 4 county commissioner (Ron Morrison). In fact, no elected official representing Williamson County was present.
The involvement of Bell County in the transmission line issue presents an interesting contrast to Williamson County. As referenced at the PUC meeting on September 11, Bell County Precinct 2 Commissioner Tim Brown worked successfully to get monopole structures along part of the transmission line route.
Elected officials that show up to help the people that elect them. Maybe our elected officials in Williamson County should try that? Instead of just helping those who fund their campaigns. And, with or without their help the HCG will continue to fight.
This issue involving the SH-130 route isn’t over. LCRA still must acquire right-ofway
for the route adopted by the PUC, and now that the details have been revealed regarding the mistake which was made, the LCRA directors obviously have a moral obligation to take a look at what can be done to fix what went wrong.
It’s certain that the HCG will insist that the LCRA directors look into this matter and provide an answer, including explaining how such an error could have occurred, and what will be done to fix it.
And after the election, with two new commissioners and new County Attorney, they will be able to get their elected officials to help as well. Accountability comes in November.