Mayor Bob Kellar | File photo
[KHTS] – Santa Clarita Mayor Bob Kellar is slated to testify in front of a Senate committee Wednesday to address a bill that could settle a longstanding dispute the city of Santa Clarita and backers of a “mega mine” in Soledad Canyon.
“We will see as to whether or not they actually question me,” Kellar said. “I’ve been invited to speak before a Senate committee.”
The item before the committee is Senate Bill 771, which, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, would “provide to the Secretary of the Interior a mechanism to cancel contracts for the sale of materials CA-20139 and CA-22901, and for other purposes.”
The bill, if passed, would resolve a dispute over a proposed 56-million-ton sand and gravel mine, to be operated by Cemex and located in the Soledad Canyon area, immediately east of the city of Santa Clarita.
The mining contracts were first approved in March 1990, with a record of decision issued in 2000.
“This legislation is a sensible solution that would resolve this decades-long dispute and protect the people of the Santa Clarita Valley from the pollution and traffic congestion that would result from a massive mining operation in Soledad Canyon,” said Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-California, who is introducing the bill.
The bill represents a cooperative effort between the Mexico-based contractor and the city of Santa Clarita, city officials said. This is Boxer’s third attempt at introducing this legislation.
“The issue of cemex goes back into the early 90s as far as when this thing started coming to our attention,” Kellar said. “And certainly over the last 14 or 15 years, we’ve been totally engaged as far as fighting this matter for our community.”
A representative for Cemex, Tony Cardenas, did not respond to a request for an interview.
However, the effort to stop a mine from coming to the Santa Clarita Valley has been a cooperative one, said Mike Murphy, intergovernmental relations director for the city of Santa Clarita.
“Cemex has been a partner with us all the way along this process,” Murphy said. “And they continue to be.”
Murphy said he had “no reason” to assume that Cemex wouldn’t also express support behind the bill.
From 1998 to about 2007, the two sides engaged in a battle over the mine, but in 2007, Kellar said the two sides called “a truce.”
“I anticipate that Cemex will be there in support of the bill in Washington,” Kellar said, calling the latest piece of legislation the end result of about four years of work.
“This Senate bill had been crafted with the involvement of committee member Sen. Dianne Feinstein, as well,” Kellar said.
“I think from their perspective, (Cemex officials) want to make sure they are compensated for what they view as fair and appropriate for the mining contracts they hold in Soledad Canyon,” Murphy said.
“It’s not a swap — what the bill requires is that 10,200 acres of land in San Bernardino County, that has already been identified for disposal would be sold, and that the proceeds from the sale of those properties is used to compensate Cemex for their land,” Murphy said. “What happens in the bill is that the secretary of the interior will place a value on the two contracts that Cemex holds with the Bureau of Land Management.”
That value would be given to Cemex as compensation, and in exchange, Cemex would no longer have the right to mine in Soledad Canyon, Murphy said.