COURT REJECTS CITY'S SUIT CEMEX'S CONSENT DECREE TO ESTABLISH QUARRY UPHELD.
SANTA CLARITA -- The U.S. Supreme Court dealt Santa Clarita a tough blow this week by upholding the consent decree that allows Cemex to establish a 56.1-million-ton quarry planned in Soledad Canyon.
On Tuesday, the court rejected the city's lawsuit, effectively stopping it from fighting the decree any further. Santa Clarita still has other weapons in its legal arsenal against the sand and gravel mine planned just outside city limits.
Nevertheless, Cemex declared a victory on Wednesday.
``We are very, very pleased with the Supreme Court's decision, yet again affirming that this is a positive project and a positive step to provide a very necessary product to the people of Southern California,'' said Susana Duarte, a spokeswoman for the company. ``(The decision) reaffirmed the validity of the consent degree, exhausting any possible other legal recourse they have on this issue.''
The city was appealing a lower court ruling that came down in February, and though this action failed, pending lawsuits in the lower courts could require Cemex to face further environmental review on the project.
The city has shouldered many disappointments, as federal courts have repeatedly rejected its claims the consent decree allows the federal government to disregard state environmental law.
``It's very unfortunate the petition to the Supreme Court was denied,'' said Geralyn Skapik, an attorney representing Santa Clarita. ``Important state interests were at issue. The consent decree unfairly imposes environmental harms upon the city without proper mitigation and circumvents the purpose and intent behind the California Environmental Quality Act.''
The proposed mine is in county territory between Canyon Country and Agua Dulce, but the city has battled it claiming it will pollute Santa Clarita's air and add heavy truck traffic to local roads.
Cemex was granted the mining rights by the Bureau of Land Management in 1990. The county had rejected the mine, but conceded when Cemex filed a lawsuit in federal court. County supervisors granted the mining permit in June 2004 under a court-approved consent decree.
In February, the 9th District U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals said the consent decree between the county of Los Angeles and Cemex Inc. allowing for the mine was negotiated in good faith and is ``fundamentally fair, adequate and reasonable.''
The city appealed the decree, claiming it and the environmental impact report violate the California Environmental Quality Act, the federal Clean Water and Clean Air acts and the National Environmental Policy Act.
In October 2004, the state Attorney General's Office filed a friend-of- the-court brief in support of the city's stance, questioning the legality of the consent decree. The brief argued the settlement between Cemex and the county could hamper state and county enforcement of environmental laws. The attorney general argued the provision would undercut the county's enforcement of environmental laws.
Last week, Cemex announced the company has dropped its lawsuit challenging the environmental review in the city's plan to annex 1,885 acres where Cemex's mine is planned. In exchange, Santa Clarita agreed to prepare a full environmental impact report instead of the more abbreviated one officials planned. The settlement was finalized at the end of July, attorneys for Cemex said.
Cemex plans to begin operating by 2008, Duarte said.
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|Publication:||Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)|
|Date:||Oct 5, 2006|
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