by Steve Petzold
I am largely indifferent to whether or not the CEMEX mine is ever developed. The scary stories about air quality degradation, ground water aquifer pollution, and gravel trucks blocking SR 14 seem to be greatly exaggerated. These claims are put forth as if everyone in the city of Santa Clarita will be affected equally, and are made without reference to specific studies for independent verification.
Sitting in Saugus, I am more concerned about continued housing development within the city’s limits, which promise to snarl traffic and have a direct impact on my family’s quality of life. Witness the grading of the land north of Newhall Ranch Road, as Golden Valley is pushed through to Plum Canyon. Everyone seems to be celebrating Jim Backer’s high density urban village concept in Canyon Country known as Vista Canyon. Williams Homes has its name on a huge semi-trailer parked within view of Soledad Canyon marking its new development. There is no need for Lance Williams to pay for a billboard to market his massive Trestles Community.
Last I checked, each of these development projects required a fair amount of aggregate for construction that is trucked in from somewhere. Yet, the city leaders continue to spend substantial time and effort railing on our congressional representatives to use any means possible to stop the CEMEX mine, which would be located outside city limits.
I found it very interesting to watch the quixotic effort to push CEMEX legislation through the last days of the 113th Congress. Senator Barbara Boxer suddenly abandoned her Bill S.2771 and substituted a new bill, S.2938, which magically allowed it to have a zero score with the Congressional Budget Office. The CBO has completely lost its integrity in the wake of its “Affordable Care Act” estimates, meant to mislead the public and ensure passage.
My mother always told me, “Stevie, garbage in and garbage out” and “haste makes waste.” Boxer’s CEMEX bill is found at the confluence of these two truisms.
Buck McKeon, bless his heart, introduced similar legislation in the House, H.R.5742, in November. Using his considerable personal connections built during his long tenure, McKeon was able to convince House leadership to allow a last minute legislative sleight of hand to get a unanimous consent vote on the floor. Buck can live the rest of his life in Virginia correctly stating that he got a CEMEX bill through the House.
Over in the Senate, a largely unknown senator from New Mexico, Martin Heinrich, put a legislative hold on Boxer’s bill, effectively allowing it to die an unceremonious death while crushing the desperate hopes of many in the Santa Clarita Valley. We are led to believe that concern for financial accountability suddenly overwhelmed Heinrich’s record of environmental activism. Not!
We will never know Senator Heinrich’s true motivation for killing the CEMEX bill in the Senate. Ostensibly, he believes that CEMEX mining should be stopped, but BLM land should not be used as a piggybank for funding. For the moment, I will ignore that his logic defies normal human understanding of the elements that comprise a balance sheet.
I have read Senate bill 2938 and it is clear that it is not a solution, but only the beginning of a process that may lead to a resolution. It is widely conceded that the value of the land sale in Victorville (less federal royalties foregone) will be substantially less than the value of CEMEX mining rights in Soledad Canyon projected over 10 years. The only reason this legislation zero scores to the federal government is that the City of Santa Clarita is expected to pay the difference, which will amount to millions of dollars. Last time I checked, the residents of Santa Clarita are taxpayers.
It remains to be seen how our new Congressman Steve Knight will approach the CEMEX issue. Remember, he proposed his own solution during the campaign to declare State Route 14 a “national defense asset” connecting Palmdale with military assets in the Los Angeles basin. This would have supposedly stopped the mine, because we couldn’t have gravel trucks blocking the route of military convoys. Please smile if you feel the need to cry.
With the new congress coming to power, let us demand transparency from all elected officials regarding the terms and conditions of any CEMEX legislation. Is that too much to ask? Of course it is.