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SCVNews.com | Opinion/Commentary: Cemex: Rights of U.S. Citizens Should Trump Multinational Interests | 05-01-2012
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Guest Commentary by Dante Acosta
| Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Dante Acosta

As a candidate for the 25th Congressional District of California, I have shared my desire to prevent the Santa Clarita Valley from becoming victim to one of this country’s largest proposed cement mines.

If allowed to begin operations, the Cemex mine in Soledad Canyon will negatively impact the quality of life we enjoy. Our roads and freeways will become even more congested with the daily transport of hundreds of truckloads of aggregate. Not only will increased traffic and noise affect area housing prices, the citizens of Santa Clarita may likely be put at greater risk for respiratory problems due to an increase in airborne particulates.

I believe hope is still on the horizon. For the last three years, various incarnations of a bill that would properly compensate Cemex for revenue lost by the cancelation of mining rights in Soledad Canyon have been considered. In exchange for mining rights, Cemex would receive proceeds from a sale of land near Victorville from the federal government — something the company has had designs on for some time. The deal is a win-win, but since introducing the Soledad Canyon Mine Act (H.R. 5887) in 2008, Congressman Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, has backed away from promoting its passage, and it has since expired.

A new bill, Senate Bill 759 is being sponsored by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., but no House companion bill is forthcoming. McKeon has been quoted as saying that his pledge to not support bills containing earmarks prevents him from sponsoring a new House bill to pair with SB 759.

While crafting H.R. 5887, and even after its demise, McKeon successfully wrangled at least one “land swap” and recently proposed yet another — neither of which involve the Cemex mine.

The 2009 Wilderness Act, a bill that McKeon sponsored with Boxer, removed 470,000 acres of federal “study area” lands from any hope of being opened up for commercial tourism or other responsible uses. In return for bowing to the extreme environmentalists on this issue, McKeon was able to secure benefits for a key special interest group in the 25th Congressional District.

Was the group composed of any of the thousands of residents who will be adversely affected by the Cemex mine? No, it benefited a group of Mammoth Lakes snowmobile enthusiasts who received special-use permits to operate their vehicles on federal lands. Opposition by recreational groups who had long desired access to the lands — now permanently out of their reach — was ignored. Most shocking, though, is that the provisions of H.R. 146, the Public Lands Management Act of 2009, were passed in an omnibus spending bill as earmarks.

If the duplicity ended there, perhaps it would not be an issue. But to add insult to injury, McKeon is again shifting federal dollars and benefits to recreationists in Mammoth with HR 2157. This bill transfers certain private lands to the federal government and vice versa. It passed out of the same committee that McKeon cites as objecting to the Cemex compromise, which he dutifully refuses to sponsor in the House.

Why is McKeon so ready to break his no-earmarks pledge to do land-swap deals that benefit recreational enthusiasts in Mammoth Lakes, but unwilling to assist the families of the Santa Clarita Valley avoid the greatest potential traffic and air-quality issues they’ve ever faced?

One of my opponents believes that a hefty $6,900 contribution to McKeon from the CEO and employees of Mammoth Mountain ski area just prior to the introduction of this bill is to blame. Still, that would not have precluded McKeon from sponsoring a new Cemex bill. My belief is that a combination of too many years in Washington, D.C., and an increasing affinity for multinational corporations over the quality of life of individual citizens is to blame.

Cemex’s governing corporation is Mexico’s Cemex S.A.B. de C.V., which operates in dozens of countries. Congressional interference in what the elite perceive to be Mexico’s right to mine on U.S. lands would likely upset a myriad of other Mexican/American relations.

I believe an understanding of how our current government views the rights of U.S. citizens when they conflict with international trade is yet another reason it’s time to retire Buck McKeon from Congress.

Dante Acosta, a financial adviser from Canyon Country, is a Republican candidate for 25th Congressional District in the June 5 primary election.

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