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Cemex, city hopeful on bill

Senate committee may hear Boxer bill that would approve land swap

Posted: August 14, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: August 14, 2012 2:00 a.m.

A bill drafted by Sen. Barbara Boxer and promising to solve the impasse between Cemex and the city of Santa Clarita could be heard by a Senate committee in Washington next month, proponents of the bill said Monday.

Media representatives for Cemex said they are waiting to hear from the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources on a proposed hearing.

“Cemex continues to fully support a legislative solution, such as (Senate Bill) 759, because it is a mutually acceptable solution for Cemex and the city of Santa Clarita,” company spokeswoman Sara Engdahl said Monday.

“The bill has been referred to the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources and is awaiting hearing,” she said.

Mike Murphy, city intergovernmental relations officer, echoed that optimism.

“We’re hopeful we’re going to get a hearing in September,” he said.

Cemex purchased mining contracts from the Bureau of Land Management in 1990 to open the proposed 56-million-ton sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon in Canyon Country.

Local residents opposed the plan, saying it would clog Highway 14 with gravel-hauling trucks and pollute Santa Clarita Valley air.

Cemex could have moved ahead with plans to haul millions of tons of sand and gravel out of the canyon, but after years of battling with the city it agreed to a land swap for property in Victorville in exchange for an agreement not to mine in the Santa Clarita Valley.

The Boxer bill, if passed, would approve the swap.

To date, the Senate committee has scheduled nothing for the bill, according to the agenda posted by the committee online.

Boxer, meanwhile, continues to push to get her bill heard before the general election in November, according to her spokesman.

“She’s written a letter to (Sen. Jeff) Bingaman formally asking for a hearing,” said Boxer’s press secretary, Peter True. “She asked for a score from the (Congressional Budget Office) for the exact cost.”

And while she and others pushing for the bill — including Cemex — remain hopeful, others believe the chance of it being addressed before the fall election is slim.

Environmental advocates with the national office say it’s unlikely to have a hearing during the current congressional session.

“This bill won’t happen until the next Congress,” said Sierra Club spokesman Athan Manuel reached at his office in Washington, D.C., on Monday.

“It’s going the way most things go in Washington — stopped,” he said.

The national environmental watchdog group moved the issue of Cemex, and the Boxer bill, to the top of its list of priorities earlier this year.

“We kept hoping on hope for more activity on the Santa Clarita Valley issue now it looks unlikely,” said Manuel, director of the Sierra Club’s Land Protection Program.

When asked if the bill was dead, he replied: “It’s hibernating.”

When asked for explanation, Manuel said: “The Republicans look for any excuse not to put their name on any Democrat bills.”

Sandra Cattell, the club’s local representative, told The Signal on Monday she’s heard positive news that the Senate committee is receptive to the suggestion of a hearing.

“Senator Boxer is actually optimistic that there is activity inside the committee,” she said.

The current congressional session is due to end Dec. 14.


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