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Mining Company Sues L.A. County

Litigation: Firm claims supervisors have broken federal rules by stalling a gravel mine project near Santa Clarita.


A company planning a massive gravel mine near Santa Clarita sued Los Angeles County on Friday, alleging that local officials have violated federal rules by delaying the project.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court by Cemex, the parent company of Azusa-based Transit Mixed Concrete. It seeks to force the county Board of Supervisors to approve the project and pay unspecified damages.

The suit contends that the county "has chosen to circumvent federal law and policy through a pattern of interminable and unjustified project delays ... under the guise of environmental review."

In August 2000, the federal Bureau of Land Management approved the company's plan to extract 78 million tons of gravel and sand from federal lands in Soledad Canyon, just east of Santa Clarita. However, the project is still awaiting approval by the county supervisors, who are scheduled to consider the matter on Feb. 26.

The county board has reviewed the plan three times in a little over a year.

Opponents of the project want the supervisors to impose a range of restrictions that would reduce the mine's effects on air quality, traffic and wildlife.

Supervisor Mike Antonovich, whose district includes Santa Clarita, reacted angrily to the suit, saying the county has the right to impose restrictions above and beyond those set by the federal government.

"The residents in this community don't have the ability to go to Washington, D.C., to complain about environmental issues," he said.

"The Board of Supervisors has the responsibility to address these environmental issues, [and] this is what the board has done."

Antonovich wants the company to limit truck traffic, provide air conditioning for schools affected by mining dust and import water for the project.

Cemex officials declined to comment Friday.

Federal land management officials have said the county may only impose "reasonable mitigating measures" on the project.

The suit asks the court to require the county to approve the mine within 60 days of its ruling, and to prevent the county from imposing regulations "inconsistent" with those of the Bureau of Land Management.

On Thursday, the city of Santa Clarita and a Paso Robles environmental group sued the U.S. Department of the Interior, claiming it failed to protect several endangered species near the mine.

Cemex officials have said the Soledad Canyon mine would be a crucial source of gravel and sand for the local building industry. They say the mine would comply with anti-dust regulations, avoid using water during draught conditions and have minimal effects on traffic.

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