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January 5, 1995

Weinacht says TNRCC

may void sludge permits

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By Jack King
Staff Writer

PECOS, JAN. 5, 1995 - Reeves County Attorney Bill Weinacht said
Wednesday a letter from the Texas Natural Resource Conservation
Commission to Trans-Pecos Farms, Inc. represents a change in the
Commission's position on a permit to apply sludge in Reeves County.

TNRCC's new position could shorten an on-going lawsuit over the permits
for spreading wastewater sludge on farmland in southern Reeves County,
Weinacht said.

"On May 28, 1993, the Executive Director of the Texas Natural Resource
Conservation Commission issued a letter that conditionally approved four
applications for the beneficial use of biosolids in Reeves County," the
TNRCC letter said. "As stated in the letter, no registration would be
`effective until this office (had) received a copy of an executed deed
conveying the property to Trans-Pecos Farms, Inc. as landowner.'

"To date, over a year and a half later, this condition precedent to
final approval has not been satisfied. Please submit this information by
March 1, 1995," the letter, dated Dec. 28, 1994, concluded.

Weinacht said the letter appears to indicate the permits will be voided
if the land is not purchased within the next two months, a different
stance than what the TNRCC took a year ago with Reeves County officials
who opposed the action.

"In a December, 1993, answer to our suit protesting the granting of
those registrations, TNRCC took the position that we had 30 days to
protest after they sent a letter to Trans-Pecos Farms conditionally
approving the applications," Weinacht said. "They said, since we didn't
get our protest in until more than 30 days after the letter was sent,
the statue of limitations had run out.

"Now they're saying approved of the registrations is conditional on
receiving deeds showing the property has been conveyed to Trans-Pecos
Farms, so they've changed their position slightly," he said.

"Furthermore, they're giving Trans-Pecos Farms until March 1, 1995 to
send them those deeds, so they're actually giving them a deadline. After
that, the registrations could be canceled and this controversy could be
over," he added.

Weinacht showed the Enterprise the legal document filed by TNRCC in
December, 1993, It said, "While the plaintiff purports to be complaining
of defendant's October 8, 1993, denial of Reeves County's motion for
reconsideration and agency appeal, to the extent that plaintiff actually
seeks to set aside the TNRCC's May 28, 1993 decision to issue sludge
registrations to Trans-Pecos Farms, Inc., more than 30 days passed
between the date of that decision and the filing of this lawsuit."

TNRCC Attorney Bob Sweeney said today he didn't think the commission has
changed its position and couldn't comment on the possible consequences
of the letter.

"I would say the letter speaks for itself," he said.

"This is on-going litigation and I can't comment of any future
consequences. I would say that cancellation of the registrations is a
possible consequence of a failure to meet the March 1 deadline," he said.

"I think the position stated in the letter is in line with the position
TNRCC has held along in this case," he said.

Although they still hold the TNRCC permits, much of the land in the
Verhalen area sought by Trans-Pecos Farms for sludge application was
sold eight months ago to another group.

In an April 28, 1994, story, the Enterprise reported that Verhalen Land
Ventures, which held over 6,000 acres of land targeted for the sludge
application, no longer exists. The new owners indicated at that time
they will farm the acreage, the story said.

Max Kerley, president of the newly formed Adobe Farms Corporation, which
purchased Bill Ramsey's portion of the acreage, said he would not
comment on the deal until all papers were signed.

Kerley and his wife, Suzanne, received 2,064 acres of the holdings of
Verhalen Land Ventures, Ramsey received 1,896 acres, and Kees M. Verheul
of Spur received 2,316 acres. Verheul was expected to sell his holdings
to Adobe Farms, but papers were not filed at the time, the story said.

Weldon Reed, Inc. first announced plans to purchase land, on which
sludge would be applied for farming purposes, in the Verhalen area in
April of 1992. The group, later renamed Trans Pecos Farms, received a
sludge application permit in May, 1993.

"If the persons who filed the application don't have rights to that
property, it is not valid," Weinacht said in April.

Should Adobe Farms wish to apply sludge to the land, they would have to
file a new application, which would be subject to new, stricter, rules,
he said.
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