Cap on Mine Operation to Be Proposed

Times Staff Writer

A battle over a massive quarry expansion sought near Santa Clarita took a new turn Tuesday when Rep. Howard P. "Buck" McKeon announced he will ask Congress to cap the mine's activity at roughly its current level.

The Santa Clarita Republican said a bill he plans to introduce next week is a compromise version of at least two legislative attempts by him since 1999 that sought to ban mining in Soledad Canyon because of widespread opposition to truck traffic and air pollution.

The new bill would require operations by Cemex, the Mexico-based quarry operator, to remain at "historic levels," which at most would be 10% of the future level sought by Cemex. The full expansion would extract 69 million tons of sand and gravel over 20 years, according to company officials.

McKeon's earlier legislation fell apart under strong lobbying by Cemex.

A company spokesman declined to say whether the new bill faces a similar fight, but McKeon acknowledged the legislation won't pass if Cemex or the federal agency that owns the property, the Bureau of Land Management, opposes it.

"I'm very mindful that if we don't have the support of Cemex and the Bureau of Land Management, we're not going to be able to pull this off because they have the juice to stop it," McKeon said.

Brian Mastin, Cemex's manager of environmental affairs, said legislation is unnecessary to resolve conflict over the project, which is also the subject of a federal court battle.

"We think this is an appropriate project just the way it is," he said. "Our focus is to continue to pursue the mediation process the U.S. District Court has ordered."

Cemex is suing Los Angeles County, contending officials caused "unjustified project delays ... under the guise of environmental review."

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