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Commentary by Andrew G. Fried
| Thursday, Aug 6, 2015
Andrew G. Fried

Andrew G. Fried

For those of us who have battled for the past decade and a half to prevent Cemex from developing a massive sand and gravel mine in Soledad Canyon, it would be all too easy to give up hope after so many close calls and legislative failures over the years.

But we haven’t given up hope. And fortunately for our community, neither has our first-term congressman, Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale.

Knight, together with two of his congressional colleagues, took a new approach in exercising political leadership on the Cemex issue this month, sending a letter to Lt. Gen. Thomas P. Bostick, commanding general of the Army Corps of Engineers.

In the letter, they urge the Army Corps to “fully evaluate” the Cemex proposal in light of the concerns raised by the federal Bureau of Land Management, which historically has favored the project but has reversed course.

The letter said, in part: “Given that the lead permitting agency for the project no longer supports it and also has concluded the existing environmental review is inadequate to support further approvals, we are writing to request that you fully consider and analyze any application by Cemex for issuance of a permit in light of BLM’s concerns regarding the project.”

Clearly, the dynamic between the BLM and Cemex has changed.

Essentially, Knight is asking the Army Corps to deny the Section 404 permit that Cemex needs in order to proceed with the project, which is within the Santa Clara River watershed just outside Santa Clarita’s eastern boundary.

Knight’s letter is a bipartisan effort, as it was also signed by regional Democratic Reps. Brad Sherman and Judy Chu. The three Southern California congressional representatives’ voices of opposition to the mine join those of both members of California’s U.S. Senate delegation, Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, who have sponsored legislation to cancel the mining contracts.

Rep. Knight’s correspondence to Lt. Gen. Bostick comes on the heels of a series of letters that have been going back and forth between Cemex and the BLM. The BLM now contends not only that Cemex has not properly moved the mine forward according to the terms of its Soledad Canyon mining contracts, but also that the environmental studies upon which those contracts are based no longer accurately reflect the impacts the mine would have on the region.

The BLM and Cemex letters have every appearance of legal posturing, and many observers believe the two entities are gearing up for a potential legal battle over the mining contracts.

Meanwhile, to his credit, Knight has recognized that Cemex needs additional governmental approvals before actually developing the mine, which is projected to yield 56 million tons of aggregate over the initial 20-year mining period. The Army Corps of Engineers is one of several regional, state and federal agencies that may yet prove to be hurdles for Cemex ultimately mining in Soledad Canyon.

Knight’s letter to the Army Corps of Engineers is a welcome sign that he is doing much more than paying lip service to the Cemex mining issue. He is assessing the situation and recognizing potential actions and new approaches that can help stop the mine before it starts.

We at Safe Action for the Environment sincerely hope Knight’s efforts are successful and we appreciate his vigilance and willingness to take action. We encourage the entire community to stand with us, and with Rep. Knight, through the final stages of this battle to protect our region from the unacceptable impacts of a massive mine in Soledad Canyon.

 

Andrew G. Fried is president of Safe Action for the Environment Inc. To find more information regarding SAFE and the proposed mine in Soledad Canyon, visit www.Safe4Environment.org.

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