During the negotiations process for the FY18 Omnibus Appropriations bill, Rep. Steve Knight (R-CA) led an effort along with Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) to include language that would ultimately conclude the decades-long dispute over the proposed Cemex mineral mine in Soledad Canyon.
President Trump signed the bill into law today, setting policy and allocating $1.3 billion in federal discretionary spending for the remainder of the fiscal year.
The bill signed into law includes language that would permanently remove mineral mining rights for the site and would prohibit any mining operations for any future contracts.
Existing contracts remain under review by the Interior Board of Land Appeals and would not be impacted by this provision.
“This is a huge win for the Santa Clarita Valley and I’m very happy we were able to include this language which is now law,” Knight said. “This has been a battle our community has been fighting for nearly twenty years, and we finally have a law on the books to address the issue.”
Located east of Santa Clarita along the 14 Freeway, the Soledad Canyon Mining Project would threaten to compromise the air quality and traffic congestion of the region, as well as endanger several species of fish and other wildlife.
Initial contracts had been awarded to the Mexico-based Cemex Corporation but were later canceled in 2015. Currently, there is an ongoing appeal by Cemex being processed by IBLA. These contracts remain valid, pending the IBLA appeal. Legislation had been introduced in previous Congresses to address this issue, but none had been signed into law.
“This has been a long time coming,” Knight said. “From my time in the state legislature until now, this has been our number one local priority in the Santa Clarita Valley. I want to thank Speaker Ryan and Leader McCarthy for working with us on this issue.”
Knight’s efforts were made in coordination with the city of Santa Clarita.
“Congressman Knight has consistently identified that working to end the threat of large-scale mining in Soledad Canyon is his top federal priority in the district,” City Councilman Bob Kellar said. “His efforts to fight of inclusion of meaningful language in the Omnibus is a significant step in delivering on his commitment to residents of the Santa Clarita Valley. This wouldn’t have been accomplished without Steve’s persistent work on this issue.”
“On behalf of the City Council, I want to thank Congressman Knight and Senator Feinstein for their unwavering commitment and bi-partisan effort regarding this issue of critical importance to the residents of our community,” Mayor Laurene Weste said. “Since 1999, there have been 15 bills introduced in Congress to address the Soledad Canyon mining issue in some way. This is the first successful effort and it represents a huge step forward to prevent large-scale mining in Soledad Canyon.”
IBLA is expected to rule on Cemex’s appeal this year. Regardless of their ruling, the language included in the Omnibus package would preclude any mining operations in Soledad Canyon upon conclusion or termination of existing contracts.
Should IBLA rule to allow mining as a result of the appeal, this legislation would preclude future contracts and additional mining once these conclude.
If they rule the current contracts are canceled, this issue is closed permanently.