The following letter was sent by Santa Clarita Mayor Laurene Weste to U.S. Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon after Congress passed the National Defense Authorization Act on Thursday without legislative language in it to block gravel mining in Soledad Canyon.
December 4, 2014
The Honorable Howard P. “Buck” McKeon
Member of Congress
26650 The Old Road, Suite 203
Santa Clarita, CA 91381
Dear Representative McKeon:
We are writing to implore you to once again consider inclusion of the language contained in your H.R. 5742 within a legislative vehicle before the adjournment of the 113th Congress. While we were disappointed that you were unable to include the provision with the other public lands provisions in the National Defense Reauthorization Act, we remain hopeful that with your 22 years of experience and leadership position in Congress, you will find an opportunity to satisfactorily resolve this issue during the final days of this congressional session and your term as Santa Clarita’s representative.
As you well know, the resolution of the 15-year old dispute between the City of Santa Clarita and CEMEX is an important issue to the community with long term ramifications. Should the mine go forward, the health and safety of Santa Clarita residents and those of the surrounding unincorporated communities will be adversely impacted; most notably affecting children, the elderly, and individuals with existing health problems. We are concerned that daily commuters using State Route 14 and our region’s business community, particularly the film industry, will also be negatively impacted. Furthermore, the ability to preserve and protect important ecological natural resources in the Upper Santa Clara River area will likely be lost forever; negating the consistent findings of several important and costly federal studies that have identified the need to conserve critical natural resources in the region.
You have repeatedly expressed your commitment to seeking every opportunity to bring this long-standing and complex problem to a satisfactory resolution. While the rules of the House of Representatives relating to earmarks have precluded you from sponsoring legislation to assist your constituents, you have consistently maintained your commitment to advancing legislation in the event that a zero score could be reached. A zero score has been reached.
At your suggestion, we have worked with California’s two Senators to move forward on this issue and develop bill language that scores at zero. We appreciate your participation in last year’s hearing before the Senate Subcommittee on Public Lands, Forests and Mining. As you noted during your testimony, “Throughout my time in Congress, I have worked endlessly to find a solution.” We applaud your personal commitment, as evidenced by your bringing CEMEX and the City together in partnership and through the introduction of nine different bills, reaching back to the 106th Congress.
The challenge over the past few years has been to develop bill language that will definitely score at zero. H.R. 5742 meets that difficult threshold as it does not violate House Rules, otherwise you would have been unable to introduce it. As we discussed with your staff during our visit to Washington on November 20, 2014, one of the intents of having legislation introduced so late in the session is to take advantage of any opportunity for resolution of this critical issue during your term of office. There is now bi-partisan, bi-cameral legislation in the form of your H.R. 5742 and Senator Boxer and Senator Feinstein’s co-sponsored S. 2938 and there is clearly no better time to act.
The National Defense Reauthorization Act was unexpected in its provisions to include a wide-range of public lands and energy bills, thus making it the de-facto largest omnibus lands bill since 2009, in spite of its primary goal to address the nation’s defense and military needs. While the language of H.R. 5742 would have been an appropriate addition to the bill, we are disappointed in your reluctance to seek an amendment, given your previous efforts related to including Elsmere in an omnibus lands package and your attempt to include mining preclusion language over a decade ago in a defense authorization bill.
As the House of Representatives heads into its final week of session, we continue to urge you, as we have previously discussed, to take advantage of any opportunity through the appropriations process to insert the required language. With the existing budget authority set to expire on December 11, 2014, we are hearing that there is a desire to pass omnibus appropriations language to fund the government through the 2015 fiscal year. Additionally, we understand that there may potentially be other legislative vehicles upon which to attach H.R. 5742. The health, safety, and natural environment in a valley of over 250,000 constituents is in peril without this legislative solution that everyone wants.
Although it has been a long and difficult road to reach this point of having zero-score legislation that has no known objection, save the Bureau of Land Management, we urge you to employ your skills and leadership in securing a lasting solution to this critical issue and securing your hard fought legacy of service to the community, which has been your home for 50 years.