Sandra Cattell: Clock ticking on resolving Cemex issue


Time is running out to protect our community from the Cemex mining project. We can no longer afford the heel-dragging that has led us to the brink of this looming disaster. That means that our representative, Congressman Steve Knight and his fellow Republicans need to take swift action to halt this project once and for all.

For those unfamiliar with this problem, allow me to give you a brief history.

In 1990, the Bureau of Land Management awarded two 20 year contracts now owned by Cemex to mine 56.1 million tons of aggregate in Soledad Canyon. The Cemex site sits just southeast of the City of Santa Clarita, adjacent to the Santa Clara River, and threatens our air and water quality.

The environmental impact report found that, “Even with the implementation of all proposed mitigation measures, air quality impacts remain unavoidable, significant, and adverse.”

In addition, mining uses a lot of water, and this site is directly upstream of a cluster of wells with low water levels or that have gone dry over the past few years. Over 1,000 truck trips per day would clog and damage roads and highways maintained by the city and the state. This site is also next to a significant ecological area, home to endangered species and the San Gabriel Mountains National Monument.

The city, environmental groups, school districts, private citizens and elected officials have worked for more than 20 years and spent millions of dollars to eliminate this threat.

Over the past two decades many solutions have been proposed, but none have worked. In 2015, the Bureau of Land Management canceled the federal contracts for non-performance, which Cemex has appealed.

We are still awaiting a ruling by the Interior Board of Land Appeals, and there is a lawsuit by Cemex against Santa Clarita.

Throughout all these years, our 25th District Representatives — first Howard McKeon and now his successor Steve Knight — have introduced bills, in both Democratic and Republican Congresses and under both Republican and Democratic presidents. Typically these bills were introduced in election years and none were actively promoted as required to win support for any legislation.

In an effort to finally stop the Cemex project, Senator Dianne Feinstein has added a provision to the Senate’s Appropriations Bill to withdraw the Cemex mine site from mineral extraction.

Steve Knight introduced a bill (H.R. 1557) that proposes to withdraw the lands from future mining — should Cemex’s appeal be denied — but despite bi-partisan support, it sits collecting dust in the House Committee on Natural Resources.

Feinstein has asked Knight to author a companion bill in House Appropriations to her Senate language, or at least “let it go through.” It appears that Knight is not inclined to help Feinstein’s effort.

In fact, a surprise letter from mostly Republican representatives that has scattered around the country has suddenly surfaced opposing the Senate Appropriation’s withdrawal provision, labeling it a political move — because it comes from our Democrat Senator. It sings the praises of Cemex, how we need this mine, and that it is in the middle of nowhere.

Words from a Republican bill echoed by a Democrat suddenly becomes unacceptable and we see defense of a multinational Mexican corporation over the best interests of a middle American community.

This is politics at its worst.

The city is sending letters to the congress members who are opposing this solution, and we can too.

Write to Knight and those who are party to this letter. They are: Biggs, Cook, Cramer, Farenthold (note: chief of staff is former McKeon staffer Bob Haueter), Flores, Gosar, Hice, Hunter, Lamborn, LaMalfa, Marchall, McClintock, Mooney, GT Thompson and D. Young.

Also write to Senators Cochran and Leahy and Representatives Frelinghuysen and Lowey (ranking members of respective Committees on Appropriations).

Let them know you are part of the almost quarter million people in the greater SCV area who are demanding a stop to this mega-mine.

This must end now.

Think of all the money that has been, and continues to be spent by the city, individuals and organizations to fight the mine. Those are funds that we need for other projects within our city.

Supposedly Knight will put in a new bill, one that will also withdraw future mining from the site and compensate Cemex. To borrow the Nike tag line, Knight — just do it.

Remember that you will be judged on whether or not you pass this legislation. Writing a bill to promote your campaign for re-election doesn’t count.

Sandra Cattell is the Chair of the SCV Group of the Sierra Club Angeles Chapter. The Sierra Club is the oldest Environmental Organization in the United States, and a partner fighting the Cemex Mine.

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