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Cemex bill stuck in committee

Soledad Canyon Mining Act has several hurdles to jump

Posted: August 3, 2008 9:50 p.m.
Updated: October 5, 2008 5:02 a.m.

The Cemex mine operation on Soledad Canyon is shown in this March file photo. The Soledad Canyon Mining Act, which would end mining at this site, awaits a hearing before a key House committee.

As Congress takes a five-week summer vacation, Rep. Howard "Buck" McKeon's bill aimed at banning the Cemex Inc. mine in Soledad Canyon still awaits a hearing before a key House committee.

"We're hoping for a hearing in September. That's what we're working on," said Bob Haueter, deputy chief of staff for McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

McKeon introduced the Soledad Canyon Mining Act in April following extended behind-closed-doors negotiations with the Mexican cement corporation. It was hailed locally as a means of blocking a proposed giant sand and gravel mine that had long been opposed by the city of Santa Clarita and Canyon Country-area residents.

The bill, however, has yet to be heard in the House Committee on Natural Resources. McKeon is hoping for a hearing during the last days before the 110th Congress adjourns.

The target date of adjournment for the House is Sept. 26.

When asked about the likelihood of having to reintroduce H.R. 5887 in the next session of Congress, Haueter said, "We're focusing on September right now."

Since McKeon introduced the bill in April, he has been able to garner nine co-sponsorships. Eight are Republicans from California and one is a Democrat from the San Fernando Valley.

The bill would cancel Cemex's mining contracts with the federal Bureau of Land Management and provide the company with land in Victorville equal to the value of the mining contracts.

Cemex would then sell the land, but the bill stipulates the land would not be used for mining.

The cities of Santa Clarita and Victorville have supported the bill and Cemex is on board as well.

The bill is sitting in the House Ways and Means Committee, where it needs to get a waiver to allow for a tax provision.

"We're trying to avoid Cemex being hit with double tax" on the purchase and sale of the Victorville land, Haueter said.

McKeon is still working on getting support from California's two Democratic senators, Dianne Feinstein and Barbara Boxer.

"Both California senators have a copy of the bill and their offices are saying they're reviewing it," Haueter said.

The bill has gotten support from the Sierra Club; the Democratic parties of the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles County have endorsed the bill.

In a resolution passed in June, the county Democratic Party said it "encourages all members of the United States House of Representatives to review and consider co-sponsoring any legislation designed to address the Cemex gravel mine in Soledad Canyon."

It also urged senators to introduce legislation in the Senate to speed up the hearing process.

The BLM has not taken an official position on the bill.

Santa Clarita city officials have made multiple trips to Washington D.C. to lobby for a bill that could end the nearly decade-long fight against the Cemex mine.

Mike Murphy, the city's intergovernmental relations officer, said city officials don't have any more trips scheduled, but they may return to the Capitol later in the fall.


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