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Gary Horton: Cemex is the defining issue of local election

Posted: October 10, 2012 2:00 a.m.
Updated: October 10, 2012 2:00 a.m.
 

Back in Washington, D.C., we’ve got gridlock, deficits, wars without end, and a nagging concern that the American dream is slip-sliding away, and “what are we going to do about it?”

Sometimes we feel there’s really nothing we, nor our politicians, can do about our problems and that things will just run their course until we see what happens.

Such fatalism isn’t our best national planning method; yet too often it seems the only conclusion possible. Maybe next year, maybe after the election we can begin solving our pressing problems.

Sigh.

They say that “all politics is local,” and it is true that in local issues we can choose leaders who can make a very direct impact in our lives.

Consider the quality of life we enjoy in the SCV. We have a fine, well-managed city. All of us benefit from the hard work, dedication, and civic-mindedness of the cityhood dreamers, planners and officials who have made our town great.

So far, so good. But many believe there’s long been a large asterisk to our city’s success looming just outside our northeastern boundaries. And that asterisk is called “Cemex.”

With the Cemex aggregate mine in and out of the news for over a decade now, many SCVers have either grown comfortable with the notion of it, or have come to believe its inevitability.

Cemex is one more example of a larger fatalism that increasingly defines our political outlook. But unlike unwieldy national issues, Cemex is a local issue over which we still might muscle a say on our destiny.

Cemex has become a polarizing issue. Many feel we can make the mine work; perhaps more feel Cemex is black and white and must be stopped:

City Councilman Bob Kellar tells me that the Cemex mine is the single largest threat facing the SCV, bar none. Kellar feels the Cemex mine is a defining concern for the people and anyone seeking to lead us.

He says there’s nothing bigger, there’s no greater threat — and we’d better stop this thing or else.

“How many people want to live in Irwindale?” Kellar quips. “Picture Irwindale times 10.”

“Picture all the smog, picture the grit in the air, picture the traffic, the tainted ground water, and the crushed and rubbled roads,” Kellar says. “Picture Santa Clarita as a mega-Irwindale, and that’s what we have at risk of the Cemex mine going forward.”

OK, OK! With that Irwindale imagery, we all get the point. Most local leaders, business people, and scientists back Kellar that Cemex is nothing short of Armageddon for the Santa Clarita Valley.

Quick facts behind the imagery: Cemex would be the largest sand and gravel mine this side of the Mississippi. Cemex would mine more than 50 million tons of aggregate over 20 years.

For clarity, 50 million tons equals about 1,250,000 ocean shipping containers of gravel.

Cemex would operate six days a week, from morning until night. Between 600 and 1,000 trucks per day would hit Highway 14, starting at 6 a.m. and continuing through 7 p.m.

Cemex would blast, excavate, and sort and mix, with the associated noise, dust and disturbance.

On the plus side, Cemex is also expected to bring some mining jobs and a lot of trucking jobs. After five hard years of recession, some local leaders feel the mine’s negative effects can be mitigated, and that a mitigated mine brings major commerce to the SCV, providing an economic shot in the arm.

To which Kellar replies, “See what crashing home values, ruined freeways, and dusty air do for our local economy!”

For the past decade and more, the city has engaged in a $10 million legal battle to shut Cemex down. Congressman Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, has put out bills and worked to help stall the mine’s opening — but so far, no home runs by shutting the mine for good.

Some feel McKeon hasn’t done enough. Indeed, McKeon seems to be leaning toward mitigating the mine, not stopping it.

Now, without a permanent solution, we’re at a pivotal point. Either we stop the mine for good, or the mine will certainly open and operate for at least 20 years — and SCV will live with whatever the consequences will be.

McKeon’s challenger, Dr. Lee Rogers is absolute on the need to stop the mine. Says Rogers, “Mining in Soledad Canyon must be stopped by our representative in Congress because there is near universal opposition to it.

“Our community says, ‘We don’t want this mine; do something about it.’ That’s the congressman’s job, to listen to the community and act.

The city has exhausted litigation and only Congress can cancel the mining contract. ... I’ve promised to work with all interested parties and introduce legislation immediately to prevent mining on the Soledad Canyon site forever.”

Cemex is a complex issue we all must weigh when casting our vote for congressman in the upcoming election. Our two candidates share distinctly different views on this very important local issue.

I hope to present Congressman McKeon’s position on Cemex in my column next week.

Gary Horton is a Santa Clarita resident. “Full Speed to Port!” appears Wednesdays in The Signal.

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