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The battle continues over mine

Government: Santa Clarita and Cemex officials will continue search for a legislative answer

Posted: July 26, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: July 26, 2011 1:57 a.m.

As Washington politicians get ready to leave for summer vacation, city and Cemex officials wrangling over mining in Soledad Canyon have agreed to keep working toward a legislative solution — even if it takes all year — officials said Monday.

To that end, city officials are ramping up their fall campaign to rally residents behind a bill proposed by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The senator has asked the Energy and Natural Resources Committee in Washington for a hearing on her bill S.759, but with Congress heading for summer recess next week, that hearing date is now expected to happen in the fall, said Michael
Murphy, Santa Clarita’s intergovernmental relations officer.

“Cemex has said they are very interested in trying to reach a legislative solution,” Murphy said Monday. “But what they’ve also said is that in the event that legislation does not go through, they suspect they will get permits to begin mining in 2012.

“But that’s only if legislation doesn’t go through,” he stressed.

Legislation to block the proposed sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon has been introduced every year since 2004 by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita. It has failed each year.

Long standing issues
“We continue to work with the city of Santa Clarita to pass S.759, the bill introduced by Sen. Boxer that is intended to resolve the long-standing issues regarding the quarry at Soledad Canyon and the contracts entered between Cemex/predecessor companies and the federal government,” Cemex USA spokeswoman Sara Engdahl said Monday.

“To that end, the city and Cemex recently extended their agreement to mutually pursue a successful resolution of these issues through the end of the year,” she said. “We remain hopeful that S.759 can be successfully passed within that time frame.”

Since the McKeon bill was struck down in the House last year, and since the Boxer bill is the last chance city officials see as a way to an agreeable outcome, city officials are going to do the best they can to support the proposed legislation.

“We’re ramping up our promotional efforts with the community,” city spokeswoman Gail Ortiz said Monday. “We’re going to have a big push in the fall to educating the community about this issue and get them to send a letter of support for the Boxer bill.”

Rep. Doc Hastings, a Republican who represents central Washington state, was instrumental in sidelining a similar bill submitted by McKeon last year. He said McKeon’s Cemex bill violated House rules regarding earmarks.

Hastings, who is the Natural Resources Committee chairman, further pledged to oppose a Senate omnibus bill that would block the Soledad Canyon mine for which Cemex bought mining leases in 1990.

The Bureau of Land Management awarded the Mexico-based cement company two 10-year mining contracts to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from Soledad Canyon.

Under the proposed legislation, the Bureau of Land Management would have sold three parcels of land in Victorville and used the proceeds to pay Cemex the value of its canceled mining contracts.


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