TCEQ cites YFZ for a total of 29 violations
Texas, the state that likes to brag that it’s like a whole other country, probably seems more like a whole other universe to workers at the YFZ Ranch near Eldorado. With environmental regulators from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality already focusing their undivided attention on the ranch, now comes word that state legislators and the office of the Texas Attorney General are casting their gaze toward the property and the sect of Fundamentalist Mormons who call the place home.
State Representative Harvey Hilderbran was in town Monday where he met with city and county officials and discussed issues relating to the YFZ. Pam Dutton, an aide to State Senator Robert Duncan, also made the trip to Eldorado to gauge public opinion.
“I’ve been following this issue and have been in close contact with Senator Duncan,” Hilderbran said. “I know that the Attorney General’s office is also looking into the allegations of polygamy and they have been in contact with the Utah Attorney General.”
Residents at the ranch, as well as the construction workers that are erecting the numerous buildings there, are all members of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, a sect that broke away from the Mormon Church over the issue of polygamy or plural marriages. Since arriving here the few FLDS members who have come into contact with local residents have made it plain that polygamy is a cornerstone of their religious beliefs. They see themselves as living out the commands handed down by their first prophet, Joseph Smith.
Many inside the anti-polygamy activist community, as well as a number of investigative journalists looking into the YFZ story, have argued that the FLDS moved to Texas because the state doesn’t have a law barring the practice of polygamy. But Representative Hilderbran says he isn’t so sure.
“I’m not ready to say that the Defense of Marriage Act passed last year doesn’t apply here,” Hilderbran stated. “It clearly defines marriage as being between one man and one woman.”
Hilderbran says he will ask Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott to rule whether the new law, taken in concert with case law regarding common law marriages, can be applied to unofficial marriages such as the “spiritual” or “celestial” marriages practiced by FLDS members.
Hilderbran plans to return to Eldorado on August 10, for the annual membership meeting of the Southwest Texas Electric Cooperative. At that time, he hopes to hold another round of meetings regarding the YFZ.
Meanwhile, back at the Ranch
TCEQ officials this week released a 148 page document outlining 29 rule violations at the YFZ Ranch. Among those were two repeat violations for which the ranch had been previously cited. Newly reported violations include the dumping of partially treated sewer water on ranch roads for dust control, improper storage of used motor oil, improper dumping of used oil filters, the burning of used oil filters with other solid waste, and the operation of a public water system without a TCEQ permit. (See list of violations below) Another violation involved the operation of a concrete batch plant following a shutdown order from TCEQ.
Region 8 Director Ricky Anderson told the Success that TCEQ investigators from his San Angelo office made a second inspection of the YFZ Ranch on July 13, 2004, at which time they uncovered the additional violations. “We view these as being very serious and they have been forwarded to Austin for review and possible action by our enforcement division,” Anderson said. He noted that the case remains open and under active investigation.
In a related matter, the Success has learned that Wasteline Engineering, Inc. of Ft. Worth has been hired to design a lagoon-style sewer plant, similar to the one operated by the City of Eldorado. The city has yet to receive the written request that city council members last week voted to require of YFZ Ranch before they would consider entering into a contract for wastewater treatment while the ranch’s new plant is being built.