Santa Clarita City Council Rejects Feinstein's Cemex Proposal
Historic mining levels don’t budge, bond issue picked apart.
Tuesday night, the Santa Clarita City Council heard a staff report regarding U.S. Senator Diane Feinstein’s two proposals to help resolve the dispute between Santa Clarita and Cemex.
Cemex, an international mining company, has been in a long standing battle with the City of Santa Clarita over their plans to facilitate a massive sand and gravel mine on the edge of the City. Cemex had won two consecutive 10 year mining contracts from the Bureau of Land Management.
A truce that was called last February gave both sides a chance to pursue legislative efforts with Congressman Buck McKeon.
In the meantime, Senator Diane Feinstein had offered her help in the matter, and in her first attempt to offer solutions, she proposed two possibilities.
The first asked the City to accept 1.5 million tons of sand and gravel to be mined out of the location on Soledad Canyon Road each year. While it marks a 35% decrease in the initial amount Cemex was planning on mining each year, it is still five times more than the City currently accepts, which is 300,000 tons per year.
Mike Murphy, who is in charge of Governmental Affairs for the City pointed out two major shortcomings of this particular option.
One, is that the total amount of mining would still occur. If the City did agree to raise their limits of mining, Cemex would then have to mine for 38 years, instead of 20 years to get the 56.1 million total tons they are entitled to. Furthermore, the daily truck trips by the mine would decrease from 1,164 trips per day on our freeways, to 757. That calculates to one truck per minute for eighteen hours a day, which, according to Murphy, would not ease the traffic impacts the mine would have.
“So Senator Feinstein’s desire to maybe avoid some of the peak traffic periods would not be met by this proposal, as we’ve looked at it further,” Murphy told the Council.
The second option proposed by Feinstein was to put a General Obligation Bond forward for voter approval. The tax payer money raised from the bond, if passed, would then be used to purchase the mine’s contracts with the Bureau of Land Management. Those contracts are estimated to be worth between $110 to $170 million dollars.
Murphy pointed out that a bond issue of this sort would require a 2/3 vote, which is very difficult to obtain.
But worse, Murphy told the Council that even if they did pass the bond and buy the contracts, they were, in fact, only buying the mining contracts. The mineral rights would still belong to the Bureau of Land Management. “At the end of the day, the Bureau of Land Management will still own the mineral rights at that site, and can turn around and re-lease those mineral rights to some other entity,” Murphy said. “And so, you could conceivably find yourselves in the same boat, just with a new project proponent.”
After hearing the staff report, the Santa Clarita City Council unanimously rejected the proposals, and voted to communicate their opposition to Senator Feinstein’s office.
The proposals brought forth by Senator Feinstein left some scratching their heads, however Murphy did his best to put the issue in perspective.
“As we have been developing the legislative proposal over the last year with Cemex, we have kept her office apprised, but her office has not been intimately involved in the details of all of the specific elements and moving parts of it in the same way Congressman McKeon has,” Murphy stated. “I think her key concern here is to assure herself that before she ventures forward with some kind of legislative proposal, that she knows that every avenue of negotiated remedy between the City of Santa Clarita and Cemex has been explored and exhausted.”
A legislative effort by Congressman Buck McKeon is currently underway, and is anticipated to be ready by the end of the month.
Other items of interest were also brought up at Tuesday’s City Council meeting.
To read about those, click here.