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AIR-QUALITY RULE ALTERED FOR MINING CITY OFFICIALS FEAR CONTROLS OVER DUST TO BE WEAKENED.

Byline: JUDY O'ROURKE Staff Writer

SANTA CLARITA -- Despite pleas from city officials, air-quality regulators have revised a rule so that some mining activities will be conditionally allowed on windy days at quarries such as the proposed Cemex mine in Soledad Canyon.

Excavation would be prohibited, but materials could be loaded and shipped if dust-control measures specified by regulators were followed. A mine trade group welcomed the decision.

``The problem with the previous incarnation of the rule was the (mine) operator would have to know where the product was going,'' said Adam Harper, executive director of the California Mining Association.

Most trucks are privately owned. Mine operators do not know where they are headed, and drop-off sites could be changed en route, he said.

``It would be impossible for a mine operator to know `these are the right trucks and those are the wrong trucks,''' he said.

Rule 1157, which was adopted by the South Coast Air Quality Management District in January 2005, was designed to reduce particulate emissions from sand and gravel mines. It requires mine operators to cut dust from loading and unloading activities, equipment, storage and paved and unpaved roads at the facilities.

With the revision, excavation would be prohibited, unpaved roads would sprayed with water twice an hour unless chemical dust suppressant is used, and loose mounds of material would be dampened shortly after the material is loaded.

The rule contains an exemption that would excuse some mine operators from meeting the standards during high winds under specified conditions.

The mine group sued the AQMD a month after the original rule was adopted in January 2005, saying it was hard to follow and would be difficult for the agency to enforce. A settlement reached by the two parties in September 2005 called for spelling out high-wind rules to permit loading and shipping materials if dust-control standards are met.

The agency postponed a June hearing on the matter to weigh the city's concerns. Since then, the board was short of a quorum twice before it adopted the change Friday.

City government, which has spent nearly $7 million battling the proposed 56.1-million-ton Cemex mine, championed passage of Rule 1157, and Travis Lange, the city's environmental services manager, questioned any changes.

``We don't want to see any watering down of the rule,'' he said. ``We feel this amendment does that already, (and) we don't want to see any more of that.''

He is concerned that the rule could be altered piecemeal, unraveling its benefits at the Cemex mine, expected to begin operating in 2008.

Laki Tisopulos, the AQMD's assistant executive officer for planning and rules, said the change streamlines and simplifies the measure's wording while accomplishing the same goal. He does not expect any more revisions.

``If additional amendments (are needed), we've committed to the city we will do a cumulative-impacts analysis to make sure nobody gets shortchanged,'' he said.

Tisopulos said he believes the revised rule will be the best of its kind countrywide.

``The companies have agreed during high winds they will be shutting down mining operations, which are very nasty operations,'' he said.

judy.orourke(at)dailynews.com

(661) 257-5255
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Sep 13, 2006
Words:524
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