By Brendan Gibbons
March 15, 2017 - The Texas Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to a controversial coal mine outside Eagle Pass near the U.S.-Mexico border.
The court announced last week it would not review the suit brought by Maverick County, the city of Eagle Pass and local residents against the Railroad Commission of Texas, which in 2013 issued a mining permit to Dos Republicas Coal Partnership.
The permit lets Dos Republicas, a subsidiary of Mexican partnership Minerals del Norte, mine coal considered too low grade to burn in the U.S. for shipment across the border.
Residents and Native American groups have long protested the mine over concerns about its impact on the land, water and climate, including a recent shutdown of canal water service to properties near the mine. The company touts its economic benefits and efforts to be a good neighbor.
“We’ve won every legal challenge along the way,” mining company spokesman Rudy Rodriguez said, adding that the mine pays $1.3 million a month in wages and paid just over $1 million in property taxes in 2016.
George Baxter, a Maverick County resident who petitioned to have the mining permit revoked, vowed to keep fighting.
“Nothing about this mine has changed or gotten any better since the Supreme Court decision,” he said in an email. “We will continue to oppose it in every legal way possible.”
Another challenge by Eagle Pass, the Environmental Defense Fund and residents about the mine’s wastewater discharge permit issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality is pending in state district court in Travis County.
The Supreme Court decision came March 10, the same day the Railroad Commission confirmed in a letter to the local irrigation district that wind-blown dirt from the mine covered a canal lateral on Feb. 14.
The district then shut down the lateral for six days starting Feb. 15 as it flushed water through the lateral. The mining company offered water to the affected residents during the shutdown.
The dirt most likely came from piles of excavated soil near the canal lateral, according a Feb. 16 Railroad Commission inspection report.
The Railroad Commission did not issue any violations for the incident.