Feb. 13, 2013

Safe Action for the Environment Inc. has submitted a 3,588-signature petition to key lawmakers in support of legislation to prevent a proposed 56 million ton sand and gravel mine from being developed in Soledad Canyon.

“We’re very proud of the petition drive and letter writing campaign that we undertook this past year to help save Soledad Canyon from this massive mine,” said SAFE President Andrew Fried. “More than 3,000 people stepped up to express their support of this very important legislation, and we are hopeful that this show of support will work in our favor as Congress considers a similar bill this year.”

The results of the online petition were sent last week to legislators on a compact disc that included the names of those signing the petition, comments from many who chose to post a comment along with their signature, several dozen letters of support, and supporting documentation providing background information on the issue.

The petition and letter writing campaign were initially conceived in support of Senate Bill S. 759 by Sen. Barbara Boxer, D-Calif., which would have canceled the CEMEX mining contracts with the Bureau of Land Management and compensated the giant mining company via the sale of federal lands near Victorville that are already on the government’s “disposal list.”

Among those receiving copies of the petition and letter campaign results were Sens. Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif.; Sens. Ron Wyden, D-Ore. and Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska (Chair and Ranking Minority Member of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources); Reps. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and Brad Sherman, D-Sherman Oaks; California State Sens. Fran Pavley and Steve Knight; State Assemblymen Scott Wilk and Steve Fox; and the five Santa Clarita City Council members and associated city staff.

No federal action was taken on S. 759 in 2012, but it is hoped that a similar piece of legislation by Boxer will win favor from Congress in 2013. The petition and letters can provide momentum for a new bill that could stop the mine from being developed just outside the eastern boundary of the City of Santa Clarita,” said SAFE Board Member Pauline Harte.

“We were struck by the comments of many people who signed the petition,” Fried said. “Some of those who support saving Soledad Canyon made impassioned, compelling pleas in favor of the legislation. Clearly, this mine would have a very real, direct impact on people’s lives, and they recognize it.”

For example, Karen Kentfield wrote: “My daughter has severe asthma and has been hospitalized for breathing distress. She was on oxygen support for two years. Currently, we cannot afford to move and believe this to be a danger to her life.”

Others expressed similar sentiments:

“I live close to the mine and have metastatic cancer,” wrote Vera Bierend. “The last thing I need is poor air quality and stress from the added traffic. Please do not make my home for 30 years a hell-hole.”

Some who object to the CEMEX mine are concerned about the 1,100 associated daily truck trips that would worsen traffic and diminish safety on State Route 14.

In signing the petition, Hudson LeGrand wrote: “Adding significant commercial gravel trucks to an overcrowded highway ferrying commuters — who drive too fast — from the Antelope Valley to L.A. and back is unwise, foolhardy and dangerous.

This additional heavy commercial traffic will chew up the roads, damage paint jobs, windshields, and will likely create traffic snarl-ups. Given the speeds of the auto traffic on the busy Antelope Valley Freeway, there will be an increased potential for fatal accidents.”

Common themes in the comments include additional pain and suffering by those with asthma, cancer, the impacts of the mine on children, and the inevitable diminishing of property values.

Jonathan Trautman pointed out it would make no sense to proceed with the mine when a solution exists that is acceptable to both sides, since Boxer’s bill was designed to reach a solution that would be acceptable to CEMEX: “We need to stop mining that would endanger the health and lives of our citizens. The fact that the mining company can be compensated, without adding to our debt or budget, is just proof that this can be worked out for all.”