June 26, 2013

Safe Action for the Environment, Inc. has endorsed Sen. Barbara Boxer’s new legislative attempt to save the Santa Clarita Valley from a 56 million ton sand and gravel mine proposed to be developed in Soledad Canyon.

“SAFE is proud to support the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act, and we hope the community will join us in advocating for its passage,” said SAFE President Andrew Fried. “We’re grateful to Sen. Boxer for her continued efforts to reach a legislative solution to this long-running issue, and we’re also very pleased to see her California colleague in the Senate, Dianne Feinstein, has signed on as a cosponsor. This demonstrates the importance of this issue to the entire northern Los Angeles County region.”

Fried said SAFE is asking community members to express their support of S. 771 by sending letters to Sen. Boxer, D-Calif., Sen. Feinstein, D-Calif., Rep. Howard “Buck” McKeon, R-Santa Clarita, and the Co-Chairs of the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. SAFE’s website, www.safe4environment.org, is providing information on the bill and how to submit letters to the legislators either online or by mail.

In a letter to Boxer expressing SAFE’s support for the bill, Fried said the nonprofit organization views S. 771 as a balanced solution that addresses not only the concerns and interests of communities that would be affected by the mine, but also the interests of CEMEX.

“We believe the Soledad Canyon Settlement Act reflects a fair-minded approach to a complex situation that has evolved over the past two decades,” Fried wrote. “By directing the Bureau of Land Management to cancel CEMEX USA’s sand and gravel mining contracts in Soledad Canyon and withdrawing the site from future mining, S. 771 addresses the concerns of area residents who have long been concerned that the mine would adversely impact air quality, human health and animal husbandry, traffic and overall quality of life.”

The bill calls for the BLM to sell surplus lands near Victorville, and utilize the proceeds to compensate CEMEX for the canceled contracts. The bill also creates a structure for CEMEX and the City of Santa Clarita to negotiate additional compensation for CEMEX if it is determined that the surplus land sale doesn’t sufficiently reimburse the mining company for the cancellation of its Soledad Canyon mining contracts.

“It’s unclear at this point whether that would even become an issue, and if it does, how much that amount would be,” Fried said. “In any case, the City of Santa Clarita would have the right to approve or reject any proposed agreement with CEMEX under the terms of S. 771.”

SAFE Board Member Pauline Harte said time is of the essence, because CEMEX last year ended the five-year “truce” that had been established with the City of Santa Clarita to allow time for the parties to seek a mutually agreeable solution.

“This really is the end of the line,” Harte said. “We need S. 771 to pass if we’re going to protect the community from the traffic and air quality impacts of this massive mine. It’s as crucial as it’s ever been for people to voice their support of this bill, so the decision makers in Washington will understand how important this issue is to our communities.”

S. 771 is Boxer’s followup to her 2012 bill, S. 759, which contained similar core provisions but was not acted upon by the Senate.

“We’re optimistic that S. 771 will gain favorable consideration this year,” Fried said. “Without it, we’re looking at 1,100 daily truck trips and dubious air quality for the Santa Clarita Valley, for decades to come.”

To find more information regarding SAFE and S. 771, visit www.Safe4Environment.org.