Wilk introduces CEMEX mega-mine bill to re-open permitting process

SACRAMENTO –Today, Assemblyman Scott Wilk, R- Santa Clarita, introduced AB 1986, which would re-open the permitting process of CEMEX's proposed mega-mine.

“CEMEX's mega mine would be larger than Irwindale and would wreak havoc on our environment and quality of life,” stated Wilk. “Our children and seniors won't be able to breathe, our roads will be choked daily with an additional 1,200 18-wheelers and the mega-mine will soak up our most precious resource, water. I'm committed to killing this project.”

In 1990, the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) issued two 10-year contracts to mine 56-million tons of aggregate from a site near Soledad Canyon Road and the 14 Freeway. Through the years there have been a number of owners, but the current owner is CEMEX.

Last August, under pressure from Rep. Steve Knight, R-Palmdale, and California's two U.S. Senators, the BLM announced it had canceled CEMEX's Soledad Canyon mining contracts.  However, CEMEX has appealed that decision and it could take as long as two years to get a final adjudication.

Although a federal issue, there is a role for the state to play in the permitting process of the mega mine.  Back in 1991, CEMEX's predecessor-in-interest (Transit Mix Concrete) filed an application with the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for a water appropriation permit.  The application requested 322 acre-feet of water per year from the Santa Clara River for use related to mining and industrial operations.  Under current law, the administrative process allows for a protest period and the SWRCB is required to hold a hearing as long as a protest remains unresolved or there is a disputed material fact. 

No hearing was held and the SWRCB has essentially suspended activity on the application, although the status of the application is still considered active. 

Existing law requires the publication of a notice of application to appropriate water and requires protest to be filed within a certain period of time after publication of a notice of application.

AB 1986 would amend the water code to require the publication of a new notice of application if the SWRCB has not rendered a final determination on an application within 20 years from its original filing date.  The new notice would re-open the protest period and any other administrative processes, as if it were being undertaken for the first time.

Wilk declared, “I'm hopeful that our community will prevail at the federal level to kill this ill-conceived project.  AB 1986 is a 'Plan B' that would allow us to make the case with state regulators on why this mega mine doesn't work in our community.”