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Mine battle looks ahead to 2013 congressional session

Cemex says it remains hopeful for legislative solution

Posted: December 11, 2012 4:25 p.m.
Updated: December 11, 2012 4:25 p.m.

The bill to block a giant open-pit mine in Canyon Country will likely be rolled into a larger omnibus bill and re-introduced to the new Congress that meets in January 2013, according to members of a local delegation who recently returned from Washington, D.C.

The three city delegates met separately with Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita.

Each time they met to discuss Cemex, a representative of the Mexican mining company was present, said Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar, who joined Councilwoman Laurene Weste on the trip.

“I am more excited and optimistic about things now than I have been ever having gone to Washington to discuss Cemex before,” Kellar said Monday.

“One of the things that Cemex has made clear is that they’ve got to take some action — to either abide by resolution through legislation or move forward and start mining,” Kellar said.

“They have been very patient.”

In 1990 the Bureau of Land Management issued contracts for mining 56 million tons of sand and gravel from a site in Soledad Canyon. For years the city and Cemex fought over the issue, finally agreeing to a land-swap deal that requires congressional approval because it involves federal land.

Boxer introduced a bill to win a land-swap OK in the current Congress, but it made no progress.

Contacted last week, Cemex spokeswoman Sara Engdahl told The Signal that the firm still hopes for a legislative solution.

The local delegation also included: City Council member Laurene Weste; Mike Murphy, intergovernmental relations officer for the city of Santa Clarita and Santa Clarita’s new City Manager Ken Striplin.

Kellar said the group discussed folding the Boxer bill into a larger omnibus bill on the environment introduced by the Senate, then endorsed by the House of Representatives.

“That’s where we need our congressman,” Kellar said. “And he is committed to us.”

Talks each day in Washington were cooperative and positive, Murphy said.

“We talked about several different approaches,” Murphy said.

“In terms of the Boxer bill, we have re-introduce legislation under a new number for the 113th Congress,” he said.
“It will likely be wrapped in a larger omnibus bill on environmental issues.”

Under the present Boxer bill, first introduced at the end of the last congressional session, if Cemex leaves Soledad Canyon, it will be compensated through the sale of three specific tracts of land north of Victorville, just west of Interstate 15.

The land is owned by the federal government, managed by the Bureau of Land Management and deemed “surplus land” already identified as disposable.

The bill would direct the U.S. secretary of the interior to call for the sale of each of the three blocks of land. Proceeds would be deposited into a federal treasury bank account and set aside to pay the first contract holder, which is Cemex.

If the lands sell for $100 million, for example, Cemex would be paid about $40 million, according to Murphy, and the balance of $60 million would be left to the federal government, available to pay for any additional administrative costs.




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