By The Signal Editorial Board
There’s a stereotypical plot line in the “slasher” horror movie genre and it goes something like this:
The killer’s intended victims defend themselves and the villain appears to die an awful death — usually impaled on a piece of rebar or something — only to rise up again and chase the hapless teenagers, usually into a garage full of chainsaws.
The Cemex sand and gravel mine proposal is something like that. It’s reminiscent of the goalie mask-wearing villain Jason from the “Friday the 13th” franchise. Just when you think he’s dead…
Many times over the past 20 years, it has looked like the Cemex plan has been struck a death blow, only to rise again to threaten us anew.
So, you’ll forgive us just a smidgen of skepticism. We want to celebrate with everyone else over this week’s ruling from the Interior Board of Land Appeals, which on the face of it seems to ensure that there will never be a massive sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, right on the eastern doorstep of the city of Santa Clarita.
It might just be the long-awaited death blow. Maybe. We’d go so far as to say “likely.”
We’ll even hand out some well-deserved congratulations, because even if this isn’t the final victory, it is an important and hard-earned one none the less.
Among them: local activists and leaders of our city of Santa Clarita, not just now but stretching back over the past two decades and more. From City Council members to key staff members to community leaders, the effort to stop the Cemex mine and its potential impacts on our community are sincerely appreciated.
In particular, the City Council’s Cemex subcommittee consisting of Councilman Bob Kellar and Councilwoman Laurene Weste have devoted a great deal of extra time to the effort to defeat the mine.
Also among those deserving credit: our state and federal elected leaders, including our three most recent members of Congress, each of whom contributed to the effort to stop the mine while representing the SCV.
Former Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, carried multiple pieces of legislation with the goal of stopping the mine. None of them passed, but the repeated efforts helped keep the issue at the forefront.
Former Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, actually succeeded in passing legislation — signed last year by President Trump — that outlawed mining in Soledad Canyon beyond any existing contracts. It’s the greatest — and only — real legislative victory in this battle.
And, current Rep. Katie Hill, D-Santa Clarita, and her staff have advocated for the IBLA to more quickly complete its decision after nearly four years of deliberation.
What does the ruling mean?
The IBLA ruling is in response to an appeal by Cemex, which sought to overturn the Bureau of Land Management’s 2015 cancellation of Cemex’s consecutive 10-year mining contracts, originally approved in 1990 to allow the mining of up to 56.1 million tons of aggregate in Soledad Canyon. The city of Santa Clarita and other local leaders have been fighting to stop the contracts for more than two decades, citing unacceptable impacts on local air quality, traffic and other environmental considerations.
The IBLA ruling is a convoluted 48-page document written in the most excellent legalese your tax dollars can buy. A fairly quick consensus has emerged that the ruling essentially upholds the cancellation of the first contract, but leaves the second one in effect.
The hitch? It expires around the middle of 2020.
That’s just over a year from now, which doesn’t leave much time for Cemex to apply for the remaining needed permits and start mining. Most observers and some very smart minds say it can’t be done — which would make this ruling the final nail in the Cemex coffin for Soledad Canyon.
What if Cemex finds a legal way to reset the clock? It has the option to take the issue to federal court, which would cast the issue into doubt once again.
And even if we don’t end up with a mine, will Cemex succeed in exacting other costs for this battle? Don’t think for a second that this multinational mining company — with what it views as a significant investment in Soledad Canyon — will just go away quietly.
Jason never did.