Victoria County Courthouse

Victoria County commissioners meet in the Victoria County Courthouse, 115 N. Bridge St.

Victoria County Commissioners Court will hold a public hearing on Aug. 2 to address Zinc Resources’ request for a tax abatement on the company’s proposed hazardous waste management facility at the Port of Victoria.

During Monday’s meeting, the Court received a tax abatement request from Zinc Resources, authorized the Victoria Economic Development Corp. to conduct an impact study and set the date for a public hearing on the request.

Zinc Resources’ application outlined their plans to invest over $55 million into a 25-acre area at the port and provide 60 full time jobs with an estimated annual local payroll in excess of $2.4 million.

Multiple people at Monday’s meeting spoke out in favor of and against the proposed facility and tax abatement.

“We need government officials who will truly represent the interest of the people and will not just give a nice, simple tax abatement to industries that come in and make promises,” said Sister Elizabeth Riebschlaeger, a Sister of Charity of the Incarnate Word of San Antonio. She urged the Commissioners not to approve the tax abatement.

Three other residents also spoke out against the facility and proposed tax abatement.

“If they’re going to come here and pollute, why should we give them a tax abatement?” said Sandra McKenzie, an attorney at Hardy McKenzie Law. She mentioned that in other communities where similar facilities are located the community has had to pay for monitoring of the pollution coming from those facilities. “So when you talk about a tax abatement, you have to look at the other side of how it affects our economy.”

Sean Stibich, the executive director at the Port of Victoria, Dale Fowler, the former president of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., and Sharon Barnard, operations director of the Victoria Economic Development Corp., spoke in support of the tax abatement request, thanking the Court for supporting economic development in the area.

“I hope you accept this application,” said Stibich. He said one of the first conversations the Port had with Zinc Resources was about what tax abatements the county offers. “It’s pretty much the same conversation we have with everyone. They ask you, does the county offer an abatement? And then the second question is, historically, what has the county done?”

John Clegg, a Victoria County resident, also expressed his support of the facility and tax abatement.

“I think it’s a very good thing for Victoria to have this company coming here,” Clegg said. “It creates additional tax base, utilizes the port facilities that have been there a long time waiting for these type of projects to come along, as well as the additional payroll.”

Houston-based Zinc Resources first planned to build their electric arc furnace dust recycling facility in Live Oak County. After facing widespread opposition from residents and officials in the county, however, they began looking to build their facility at the Port of Victoria. They applied for an air permit with the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality for the proposed facility in March.

TCEQ Executive Director Toby Backer issued the facility’s air permit on Friday, two days after he denied public meeting requests from five Victoria County residents and the Clean Economy Coalition based in Corpus Christi.

The permit allows Zinc Resources to annually emit up to about 164,000 tons of carbon dioxide, 165,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent, nearly 100 tons of cobalt, 61 tons of nitrogen oxides and about 95 tons of nine other pollutants from the facility. Other pollutants include organic compounds, lead, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter with diameters of 10 microns or fewer and 2.5 microns or fewer.

TCEQ will grant a public meeting for a new source review permit when one is requested by a representative or senator for the area or is required by law. The state agency can also grant a public meeting if there is a significant degree of public interest, which is determined on a case-by-case basis.

According to TCEQ, factors considered are the size of the community impacted, the number of comments received and the number of public meeting requests received.

TCEQ did not provide an explanation of the executive director’s decision to deny public meeting requests.

Records show 29 people submitted a total of 45 comments on the permit, the majority of which detailed concerns about the proposed facility’s impact on environmental and human health. Five people requested public meetings and five people requested contested case hearings and reconsideration of the application.

The requests for contested case hearings were not considered because they were not received on time, said Brian McGovern, a spokesman for TCEQ. As a result, the application did not have to go before the TCEQ Commission at a public meeting for consideration of the requests.

In a formal response to comments, the executive director’s staff said the application demonstrated that all applicable statues, rules and regulations will be met. The response also said the executive director had determined that emissions authorized by the permit “are protective of both human health and welfare are the environment.”

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Investigative and environmental reporter Kali Venable contributed to this story.

Cat DeLaura is the local government reporter at the Victoria Advocate. She was born in Texas, but grew up in Virginia. She came back to Texas to get her masters in Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.