Time is running out for the Santa Clarita Valley to stop development of a massive sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon: If no action is taken on a bill that would resolve the mine dispute before May 31, CEMEX intends to move forward with the final permitting formalities and start mining.
It could mean mining activity will start in Soledad Canyon as soon as 12 to 18 months from now.
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“This really is the 11th hour,” said Andy Fried, president of the nonprofit Safe Action for the Environment, Inc., which has launched an online petition and letter-writing drive seeking support for Senate Bill S. 759, authored by Sen. Barbara Boxer to resolve the 12-year dispute over the proposed 56-million-ton CEMEX mine on Santa Clarita’s eastern doorstep.
“Senate committee leaders in Washington need to be shown the importance the community places on this bill,” Fried said. “The more overwhelming our display of support is, the more likely it is they will move this bill forward quickly enough to stop this mine’s devastating impacts.”
The mine has long been opposed by the City of Santa Clarita. In 2007 CEMEX and the City reached a truce to seek a mutually agreeable solution. The bill by Boxer would provide it by canceling CEMEX’s Soledad Canyon mining contracts and compensating CEMEX through the sale of lands near Victorville that are on the Bureau of Land Management’s “Disposal List.”
“Sen. Boxer’s bill makes sense, and it would be an acceptable solution to both CEMEX and the community,” Fried said. “The problem is, we know they won’t wait forever. The truce has been extended to May 31, and if there is no movement on the bill by then, it’s our understanding that CEMEX will call it a day and start moving forward with the mining.”
Fried urged citizens to help by signing SAFE’s petition and participating in SAFE’s letter writing campaign supporting S. 759. To sign the petition or write a letter of support, residents can visit www.safe4environment.org and click on the “Sign Our Petition” and “Write to Support S. 759” buttons. The petition drive is approximately 60 percent toward its goal of 5,000 signatures. Upon completion, SAFE’s petition will be shared with Boxer, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and the members of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.
“Even if you have signed the petition, we’d urge you to write a letter, too,” Fried said. “The more we can demonstrate how important this bill is to our community, and the whole region, the better the chances will be that the bill will move through the Senate committee process quickly enough.”
Opponents of the mine cite its undesirable impacts on air quality and traffic, as it would reduce a mountain to rubble and add 1,164 gravel truck trips to area freeways every day. The site is visible from State Route 14, about a mile and a half from Santa Clarita’s eastern border.
“This is no longer one of those ‘someday’ issues,” Fried said. “’Someday’ is now. Either we act now, or we lose.”
Additional information is available at www.safe4environment.org.