By Leon Worden, SCVNEWS.com
U.S. Rep. Howard P. “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, introduced legislation to stop the CEMEX Mine from opening in the Soledad Canyon area. This bill, H.R. 6469, the Soledad Canyon Mine Mitigation and Relocation Act, forces the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) to determine the legal and administrative steps necessary to carry out the goals of Congressman McKeon’s original legislation, H.R. 4332, the Soledad Canyon High Desert, California Public Lands Conservation and Management Act. H.R. 4332 would have canceled the original mining contracts between the BLM and CEMEX, withdraw the areas that were subject to the contracts from further mining, and offer a land exchange with a parcel in Victorville, CA.
In November of 2011, H.R. 4332 was declared an earmark by the Chairman the Congressional Committee of jurisdiction, the Committee on Natural Resources. Chairman Doc Hastings concluded that H.R. 4332 was an earmark based on Clause 9(e) of rule XXI of the Rules of the House of Representatives for the 112th Congress, which reads: “a provision or report language included primarily at the request of a Member, Delegate, Resident Commissioner, or Senator providing, authorizing or recommending a specific amount of discretionary budget authority, credit authority, or other spending authority for a contract, loan, loan guarantee, grant, loan authority, or other expenditure with or to an entity, or targeted to a specific State, locality or Congressional district, other than through a statutory or administrative formula-driven or competitive award process.” This determination precluded Congressman McKeon from advancing H.R. 4332 in the 112th Congress.
“Since H.R. 4332 was determined an earmark, we have been engaged in an aggressive and comprehensive effort to determine a solution to stop this mine,” said Congressman McKeon. “I have held numerous meetings with CEMEX, the BLM, the Natural Resources Committee, and the City of Santa Clarita. We have been constantly at the drawing board, with all the key stakeholders, working to find a way to make sure this mine does not go forward. I believe we have arrived at a workable solution with H.R. 6469.”
H.R. 6469 is an administrative solution that works to effectuate the exact goals of H.R. 4332, by forcing BLM, the original contracting party, to come to the table and offer possible solutions that were outlined in Congressman McKeon’s original legislation. By effectuating the goals of H.R. 4332, through the BLM instead of through Congress, H.R. 6469, bypasses the earmark ban.
H.R.6469 has been reviewed by the House Natural Resources Committee and has been approved for compliance. “A review of H.R. 6469 by the House Natural Resources Committee indicates that it is in compliance with the earmark prohibition under House rules,” said Jill Strait, Communications Director for the House Natural Resources Committee.
Rep. McKeon has pledged to push this legislation for passage in the “Lame Duck” session of Congress. “I will fight vigorously to get this bill on the floor when we come back in session,” said Congressman McKeon. “This bill is a top priority for me and my constituents, and I won’t rest until we succeed.”