Cemex hires firm to lobby for Soledad Canyon mine project

Abandoned equipment stands on the site of the Cemex site in Canyon Country. Dan Watson/The Signal

The company behind a massive mine proposed for Soledad Canyon has hired three lobbyists in Sacramento to exert pressure on legislators for the project, Sen. Scott Wilk, R-Santa Clarita, said Thursday evening.

Wilk said during the Sand Canyon Homeowners Association meeting that Cemex has hired three lobbyists from the firm Governmental Advocates Inc. — Andrew and Scott Govenar, and Cliff Berg.

“I will tell you Cemex is working hard on this project,” Wilk said.

Wilk recalled waiting for a meeting with another legislator about three weeks ago, only to hear the legislator was talking to Cemex representatives regarding Soledad Canyon.

“I open the door and I come in going, ‘I’m so sorry I’m late for the meeting.’ Cemex was not happy,” he said as the crowd of about 100 people laughed. “They have hired one of the most powerful lobbying firms in Sacramento. They know this community is opposed to that.”

The senator added: “We have a limited ability to stop it, but we are all working together from Congressman Knight to Assemblyman Dante Acosta, myself and the City Council,” he said.

Calls to Cemex for comment were not returned Friday.

In a follow-up call Friday, Wilk said the mine project’s fate is in the hands of the federal Department of the Interior and the Bureau of Land Management, a view shared by Mike Murphy, Santa Clarita’s intergovernmental relations manager. Cemex filed an appeal of a decision by the BLM to cancel mineral rights contracts, though no decision has been made on the appeal.

“That’s where all the action is,” Murphy said Friday, adding that there is no Soledad Canyon mine legislation currently at the state level.

The two contracts initially canceled by the BLM were originally awarded in 1990, and would’ve allowed Cemex to extract 56 million tons of sand and gravel from hundreds of acres in Soledad Canyon just outside of the city’s northeast border.

Murphy said the company has the right to lobby for its interests, as do a number of organizations and other companies. Major League Baseball, JP Morgan Chase, Samsung and Autism Speaks are among Governmental Advocates’ other clients.

“Cemex has a number of interests in the state of California,” Murphy said. “This isn’t their only interest in the state.”

In August, Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom’s office announced the approval of a four-way settlement that requires Cemex to end coastal sand mining in Monterey County by 2020.

Wilk said he is frequently in contact with Santa Clarita City Council staff.

“We all have to remain diligent,” he said. “A lot of people think this issue is over. It’s far from over.”

Mayor Laurene Weste said during the homeowners association meeting Thursday that open space property the city wants to acquire in Bee Canyon adjacent to the Cemex property is in appraisal. Weste also mentioned the proposed mine.

“The battle of course is still going on over the Cemex project, but we feel we’re still moving in a very positive direction with our elected officials,” she said.

Murphy said the city has built a bipartisan coalition of legislators opposed to a sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon: Assemblymen Dante Acosta, R-Santa Clarita, and Tom Lackey, R-Palmdale; Wilk and Sen. Henry Stern, D-Calabasas; Reps. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, Judy Chu, D-Monterey Park, D-Brad Sherman, D-Van Nuys, and Adam Schiff, D-Burbank.

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