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Congress Helps Cemex Settle California Battle

A decade-long legal wrangle over a California aggregates project appears closer to resolution, thanks to a rare agreement among the battling parties. But


A decade-long legal wrangle over a California aggregates project appears closer to resolution, thanks to a rare agreement among the battling parties. But the fix requires legislative action by the U.S. Congress, so the timeline is unclear. Rep. Howard ìBuckî McKeon (R-Calif.) recently introduced H.R. 5887, the Soledad Canyon Mining Act, which would settle a dispute involving the City of Santa Clarita and Cemex over a large mining operation proposed for Soledad Canyon. The agreement, which includes the city of Victorville, calls upon the Bureau of Land Management to cancel its two, 10-year contracts with CEMEX to mine in the canyon. In exchange, CEMEX would be compensated with land near Victorville that is comparable in value to the company's investment in the Soledad project. Victorville officials are supporting the proposal as an economic development boost. In a news release issued by Rep. McKeon, Steve Wise, CEMEX Pacific regional vice president, described the plan as ìan equitable solution that recognizes our financial interests and also balances the community's needs in Santa Clarita.î The legislation now must be considered by the House Natural Resources Committee.


The Mine Safety and Health Administration has backed off plans to rewrite its diesel particulate matter (DPM) permissible exposure limit (PEL) as an elemental carbon measurement. Instead, the agency is sticking to a PEL of 160 micrograms of total carbon. MSHA says ìinsufficient data exist to support such a rule,î and a new enforcement strategy implementing the total carbon standard ìis an accurate and effective way of enforcing the DPM standard.î


With the Bush administration entering its final months, the latest version of the federal government's unified rulemaking agenda continues to indicate no imminent action on silica exposure by MSHA. As in previous versions of the agenda, the agency describes action on a respirable crystalline silica standard as a ìlong-termî action with no specific date projected for a proposal. The item indicates the next step will be a ìrequest for information.î In the same agenda, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration says it hopes to complete a peer review of health effects and risk assessment of a comprehensive standard to limit occupational exposure to crystalline silica by August.


The House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee continues to explore the tangled issues that must be resolved to put together a comprehensive surface transportation reauthorization bill by September 2009, when the current authorization expires. In a recent hearing on infrastructure repair and maintenance needs, state highway officials testified on behalf of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials. Allen Biehler, Pennsylvania secretary of transportation, emphasized that governments at all levels must pay their fair share of the repair bill, continuing shared funding among federal, state and local programs. He also urged Congress to incorporate into the reauthorization bill ìa thorough assessment of the Interstate and National Highway System corridors rehabilitation and reconstruction needs.î Biehler indicated a lack of confidence in the Federal Highway Administration's biannual assessments in terms of projecting future needs, because the method used fails to address complete reconstruction or replacement of infrastructure that has reached the end of its useful life. He added that the assessment does not adequately account for interchange needs.


Washington Correspondent

Charlotte S. Garvey is a Washington, D.C.-based writer specializing in environmental, natural resources and other public policy issues.