Legislation to keep a massive gravel mining project out of the Santa Clarita Valley is in danger of not making to the House floor for a vote, city officials said Wednesday.
In what has been described as the biggest public lands package since 2009, as many as 70 public lands and energy bills were attached this week to the National Defense Authorization Act.
But the latest so-called Cemex bill by U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, who as chairman of the House Armed Services Committee is responsible for pushing through the defense authorization, is not among them.
Both the city and Cemex support the proposed legislation and a companion bill in the Senate by Barbara Boxer, D-Calif. The legislation calls for Cemex to be compensated for the value of its Soledad Canyon mining contracts with land in Victorville – all at no cost to the government or its taxpayers, according to the Congressional Budget Office.
Santa Clarita City Councilman Bob Kellar said Wednesday that McKeon told him his bill was authored too late to be tacked onto the defense authorization with the other land bills. McKeon introduced his Cemex bill Nov. 19.
City sources expect the defense authorization to come up for a vote as early as Thursday.
Procedurally, it might not be too late. Mike Murphy, the city’s intergovernmental relations officer, said McKeon, as Armed Services chairman, could add the language to the omnibus defense funding bill as a “manager’s amendment.”
When Kellar discussed the possibility with McKeon on Wednesday night, he said McKeon told him the bill would have to have been scored months ago to be a part of the package.
Kellar said McKeon told him Congressman-elect Steve Knight, who takes over McKeon’s seat in January, is the bill’s best shot.
But city officials have said Cemex considers the McKeon bill and its counterpart in the Senate to be the last chance to stop mining project from going forward.
“If we cannot bring closure to the issue during this session, Cemex has indicated that they will have no choice but to go forward and obtain the final permits leading to mining of the site,” Kellar told a House committee earlier this year.
Kellar said Wednesday that the passage of McKeon’s newest bill as stand-alone legislation is highly unlikely.
City officials have expressed hope in recent weeks that it would be included in an omnibus bill.