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Congress adjourns with no new Cemex bill

Legislation would prevent sand and gravel mining project from being built in SCV

Posted: August 2, 2009 10:21 p.m.
Updated: August 3, 2009 4:55 a.m.
 
Language refinement has held up another bill aimed at banning a mega-mining project proposed for the Santa Clarita Valley, an official said.

Congress went on its summer recess Friday, and Congressman Howard "Buck" McKeon is not expected to introduce a bill aimed at Cemex Inc.'s planned mine until this fall.

"They're continuing forward with the draft they have. This is the best it's ever looked," said Lindsey Mask, spokeswoman for McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

McKeon is gearing up to introduce the latest and sixth incarnation of the Soledad Canyon Mining Act. The bill would keep Mexico-based cement giant Cemex Inc. from setting up a multimillion-ton sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, roughly a mile from Canyon Country.

The pending bill is a revision of legislation the congressman introduced in spring 2008.

McKeon was expected to introduce the bill earlier this year.

Mask said there have been no real hurdles, simply language that needed to be refined.

"People go back and forth on small technicalities," she said.

Santa Clarita city officials are hopeful.

"We have not see a final version of the bill," said Mike Murphy, the city's intergovernmental relations officer. "It's probably been maybe three or four months since we've seen a draft.

"We need to clear up the language to get it to do what we want it to do."

The pending bill has received the stamp of approval from the cement company at the heart of the matter.

"We have finished our review of the legislation," Cemex spokeswoman Jennifer Borgen wrote in an e-mail. "While we are pleased with the current version of the bill and the effort that went into developing it, we had expected it to be introduced prior to the August congressional recess. Regardless, we remain eager to work to pass the bill once it is introduced."

While Santa Clarita owns the roughly 100 acres in Soledad Canyon for which the mine is proposed, Cemex has mineral rights granted by the federal Bureau of Land Management.

City officials have opposed the mine because of concerns about air and water pollution, in addition to more traffic on local freeways from trucks going to and from the mine.

Introduced to Congress in April 2008, HR 5877 would have, in effect, swapped the proposed Soledad Canyon mine site for land in Victorville, where Cemex already operates a cement plant.

Under the agreement, Cemex would then sell the land Victorville land to that city or to a private buyer to be used for purposes other than mining.

The city has spent millions of dollars since 1999 trying to keep Cemex out of the valley. In early 2007, Santa Clarita and Cemex officials declared a truce, aiming to work out an agreement.

The current extension of that truce lasts through Dec. 31. The Congressional recess lasts through early September.

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