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UPDATE: McKeon introduces Cemex bill

Posted: September 21, 2012 10:08 a.m.
Updated: September 21, 2012 8:12 p.m.
 

A congressional bill introduced Friday by Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, calls on the federal government to study what’s necessary for a land swap that would block a giant sand and gravel mine in Canyon Country.

“The bill requires the (Bureau of Land Management) to conduct a study and look at legal issues and financial issues” involved in the swap, said Mike Murphy, intergovernmental relations officer for the city of Santa Clarita.

“Historically, the BLM doesn’t have the authority to make those changes. So with this, they may very well put it to Congress as, ‘You need to take care of this.’”

Congress, however, has shown no inclination to support the Santa Clarita Valley’s efforts to dodge the mine for which the BLM issued permits some 20 years ago. McKeon has introduced legislation regularly since at least 2004 to block the mine, but it has failed to pass.

The BLM-issued permits belong to the Mexican mining company Cemex, which agreed some 10 years ago to forego the 56 million ton sand and gravel mine if a satisfactory alternative could be found.

The land swap proposal — which would trade the permits in Soledad Canyon for federal land near Victorville — is supported by Cemex and the city of Santa Clarita.

Victorville also approved the plan, but it must be OK’d by Congress.

Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., introduced a bill in April 2011 to put the land swap proposal before the Senate, but McKeon declined to introduce a companion bill during the two-year House session, saying a Republican Party ban on earmarks blocked such an action.

Boxer’s bill has not made it to committee. The current congressional session ends by December.

“Since (his previous Cemex bill) was determined an earmark, we have been engaged in an aggressive and comprehensive effort to determine a solution to stop this mine,” said McKeon, who is up for re-election Nov. 6.

“I believe we have arrived at a workable solution with H.R. 6469.” he said in a prepared statement.

“I will fight vigorously to get this bill on the floor when we come back in session,” he said. Congress took a recess after Friday.

The legislation introduced Friday was welcomed by the city and Cemex and met with skepticism by McKeon’s opponent, who has made the congressman’s failed efforts to block the mine a major point in his campaign.

“We appreciate Congressman McKeon’s continued involvement,” Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl said Friday.

Cemex remains committed to a legislative solution, Engdahl said, adding, “We continue to believe that the principles embodied in Senate bill 759, introduced by Senator Boxer last year, represent the most effective pathway to reach that objective.”

Mayor Frank Ferry said McKeon’s latest bill, coupled with Boxer’s bill, demonstrates bipartisan agreement by Santa Clarita’s federal legislators that a federal legislative resolution is the best path forward.

“We are pleased that Congressman Howard ‘Buck’ McKeon has reaffirmed his belief that the proposed Cemex mining project is unacceptable to the community,” Ferry said.

Lee Rogers, McKeon’s Democratic opponent in the race for the 25th Congressional District, called McKeon’s move a political ploy.

“People in Santa Clarita don’t need a study to know the mine will be bad for our home values, our health, and quality of life,” Rogers said.

“Even McKeon doesn’t need a study because he’s introduced previous legislation to stop the mine; he just hasn’t acted on it.

“McKeon has had plenty of chances to stop the mine with legislation he’s introduced but failed to act on. In several sessions of Congress he had a Republican majority in both houses, a Republican president, and no self-imposed ban on earmarks, yet no action.

“It’s clear that stopping Cemex is something McKeon only cares to talk about at election time,” Rogers said. “It’s time for action. I’ll introduce real legislation to stop the mine.”

jholt@the-signal.com
661-287-5527

 

 

 

 

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