UPDATED: Cemex sues Santa Clarita, claiming breach of contract

Abandoned equipment stands on the site of the Cemex site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal
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In response to city plans to annex the site of a controversial sand-and-gravel mine site in Soledad Canyon on the city’s eastern border, Cemex filed a lawsuit against the City of Santa Clarita claiming breach of contract, civil rights violations, breach of the implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing and declaratory relief.

The lawsuit, which was filed last month in Los Angeles County Superior Court but made public as part of the City Council’s closed session agenda released Thursday, said the city has made “numerous and deliberate violations of a settlement agreement between Cemex and the city that resolved prior litigation brought by Cemex several years ago challenging the city’s improper efforts in 2005 to annex Cemex’s mining site, in much the same way as the city seeks now in 2017 to improperly annex that same Cemex mining site, along with other improper actions.”

City spokeswoman Carrie Lujan said the city did not have a comment on the lawsuit.

“We don’t comment on pending litigation,” she said.

When reached for comment, Cemex spokesman Walker Robinson said: “Our position is right there in the lawsuit.”

Click here for a link to the complaint filed by Cemex

The lawsuit said the city tried to annex the site in order to manage the site and shut down the mining project.

“Now, twelve years after signing the settlement agreement, the city and its affiliates are acting in total disregard of the settlement agreement’s terms, and have breached the agreement in multiple ways,” the lawsuit said. “The city has once again proposed to annex the Soledad Canyon Project site, once again without the environmental review and notices to Cemex that are required under the settlement agreement and state law.”

The lawsuit said the city proposed annexing 4.21 square miles—2,694.4 acres—that would include nearly all of the mine site during a Nov. 14 city council meeting. The lawsuit said the city provided a 21-day public comment period, but did not notify Cemex or the Bureau of Land Management.

On Dec. 5, the day the public comment period closed, the city’s planning commission approved a recommendation that the city council adopt a resolution favoring annexation, the lawsuit said.

“For the 2005 Annexation Project, the city effectively admitted that it deliberately failed to mention or discuss the Soledad Canyon Project or the fact that the United States owned the mineral estate in and around the Soledad Canyon Project Site,” the lawsuit said. “The city also admitted, in multiple public statements, that the true purpose of the annexation was to interfere with and stop the Soledad Canyon Project. With the 2017 Annexation Project, the city has done, and is doing, precisely the same things for the same reason.”

The lawsuit said the city had not filed an environmental impact report for the annexation and said it had a legal and contractual obligation to do so.

The lawsuit referred to a separate Sacramento-area lawsuit that resulted in a jury awarding more than $100 million in damages to two surface mining companies.

“This latest salvo in the city’s relentless campaign against the Soledad Canyon Project, with the city’s varying forms of political influence, bad-faith litigation tactics, and public relations smear campaigns, strikes a chord remarkably similar to the facts in a recent judicial ruling involving unlawful actions taken by public officials and project opponents to block the operations of two surface mining companies,” the Cemex lawsuit said. “The city’s illegal actions will fare no better in this case.”

Cemex said it has two federal contracts to mine 56.1 million tons of sand and gravel from a 500-acre site in Soledad Canyon, about two miles outside city limits.

Santa Clarita City Council members approved a pair of $20,000 lobbying contracts last fall to support its effort to keep the Cemex sand-and-gravel mine away from Soledad Canyon, but said a decision by the BLM to cancel mineral rights contracts could come in weeks or years. Cemex has filed an appeal to the decision.

City officials had said the average time for a decision is two to two-and-a-half years. September 2017 was about the two-year mark.


Feb. 6, 2007:
Cemex and the city of Santa Clarita announced a “truce,” and an intent to find “mutually acceptable solutions” after about seven years of litigation, regarding two 10-year contracts that would allow the mining of about 56 million tons of sand and gravel on the eastern edge of the city of Santa Clarita

April 24, 2008:
Congressman Buck McKeon introduces H.R. 5887, the Soledad Canyon Mine Act, in an attempt to cancel Cemex’ mining contracts and prohibit mining Soledad Canyon

May 2013:
A five-year written “truce” between Santa Clarita and Cemex that staved off a major mine in Canyon Country expired

January 2013:
Recently named City Manager Ken Striplin calls 2013 “the year of decision” for Cemex during an address to the Valley Industrial Association, a business advocacy group

April 8, 2013:
Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, introduces Soledad Canyon Settlement Act, directed the Department of the Interior to cancel mineral contracts for Soledad Canyon

December 2014:
A bill introduced by Congressman Buck McKeon, HR 5472, passes the House and then dies in the Senate, after a hold by Sen. Martin Heinrich

February 2016:
Congressman Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, introduces HR 4566, Soledad Canyon Consistency Act, another in a long line of legislative efforts to block the mine

March 2017:
Knight re-introduces the act as H.R. 1557. (Text of the bill can be viewed at SignalSCV.com.)

Dec. 5, 2017:
Santa Clarita’s Planning Commission recommends formally annexing the Cemex property, which the city has owned for years, into city limits

Dec. 22, 2017:
Cemex files complaint against Santa Clarita over a breach of contract, among other claims

Jan. 9, 2018:
Santa Clarita City Council expected to discuss pending Cemex litigation in closed session

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