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Commentary by Andrew Fried
| Tuesday, Jul 30, 2013
Andrew G. Fried

Andrew G. Fried

Often, you only win the battle if you stick with it for the long haul. When it comes to the proposed Cemex sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, it has been a long haul indeed, and the battle is not yet won.

We’re talking almost two decades. That is part of our challenge: This battle has been going on for so long, it almost seems as if people have become numb to the idea that we could end up with a 56-million-ton mine just outside Santa Clarita’s eastern border.

Are you ready to accept it? I’m not.

Our organization, Safe Action for the Environment Inc., began opposing the mine in 1999. Shortly thereafter, we called the issue to the attention of the city of Santa Clarita, which then launched its efforts to prevent the massive Cemex mine from being developed. In the ensuing years, the nonprofit SAFE and its volunteer supporters have worked diligently to support the city and help resolve the issue.

In recent years, the thrust has been to find a legislative solution that would be mutually agreeable for the city, the community and Cemex. We’ve been close to finding a solution several times. Now, it looks like our last, best hope is a new bill introduced this year by U.S. Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif.

The bill is S. 771, the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act. It provides a balanced solution that addresses not only the concerns and interests of communities that would be affected by the mine, but also the interests of Cemex.

We’re asking the community to help by sending letters of support to the senator as well as other key leaders, including Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and the chairman and the ranking member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. SAFE’s website, www.safe4environment.org, is providing information on the bill and how to submit letters to the legislators either online or by mail.

SAFE is proud to support the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act, and we hope the community will join us in seeking its passage. We’re grateful to Boxer for her continued efforts to reach a legislative solution to this long-running issue, and we’re also pleased to see that her California colleague, Feinstein, has signed on as a cosponsor. This demonstrates the importance of this issue to the entire northern Los Angeles County region.

But we’ve got to keep demonstrating that importance. Your past support has been helpful. To everyone who has sent a letter of support or signed a petition or volunteered to help in the effort to stop this mine, we thank you.

Yet, we need you to keep helping because we’re not done yet. We need your letters of support to tell our leaders in Washington how much this issue still means to our community. The mine, if developed, would cause unacceptable impacts to health, air quality, traffic and the overall quality of life in the Santa Clarita Valley. Just because it has taken a long time to resolve this issue doesn’t mean it’s gone away by itself.

S. 771 is a fair-minded approach. It’s a follow-up to Boxer’s 2012 bill, S. 759, which contained similar core provisions but was not acted upon by the Senate. S. 771 directs the BLM to sell surplus lands near Victorville, utilizing the proceeds to compensate Cemex for having its Soledad Canyon mining contracts canceled.

As SAFE board member Pauline Harte said, “This really is the end of the line. We need S. 771 to pass if we’re going to protect the community from the traffic and air quality impacts of this massive mine.”

Every ounce of support we can muster increases the chances that S. 771 will earn favorable consideration. If it doesn’t pass, we’re looking at 1,100 daily truck trips and dubious air quality for the SCV – for decades to come.

Then, we’d know this two-decade battle truly had been lost.

 

Andrew Fried is president of Safe Action for the Environment Inc. For more information about SAFE and S. 771, visit www.Safe4Environment.org.

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