BACE Board Member updates the Cupertino City Council on the latest violations by the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company resulting in fines by the United States Environmental Protection Agency.
SAN FRANCISCO – The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced a settlement with Lehigh Southwest Cement Company for failing to properly report releases of toxic chemicals at its Cupertino, Calif. plant. The company is required to pay a $47,600 penalty and spend $144,250 to fund projects that support local emergency response and limit future releases from the plant.
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On April 29, the EPA announced that to settle charges that it dumped millions of gallons of toxic waste water into Permanente Creek, the Lehigh Southwest Cement Company will pay $2.55 million in civil penalties to the government and will spend an additional $5 million to install an advanced waste water treatment plant to treat the polluted water discharged into the creek.
In announcing the settlement, EPA Regional Administrator Jared Blumenfeld gave credit to local citizens groups like BACE for calling attention to Lehigh’s actions which were illegal under the Clean Water Act, leading to this settlement. In fact, BACE, along with the Sierra Club, was instrumental in bringing a successful citizen’s action again Lehigh for polluting the creek which triggered the EPA’s response.
During the press conference, Assistant Attorney General John C. Cruden of the Justice Department’s Environment and Natural Resources Division, said:
“By bringing this older facility up to contemporary standards, and by pushing it to introduce cutting-edge treatment technology, the Department of Justice and our partners are helping create a level playing field, where all industry members are held to the same standards and no company can gain an economic advantage over its competitors by shortchanging environmental compliance. “
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City Councils of four local communities have decided to join in an amicus brief in favor of the appeal of the lawsuit that BACE has pursued that challenges the Reclamation Plan Amendment (RPA) that was submitted by Lehigh in early 2012 and approved by the County Board of Supervisors in June 2012. BACE’s original suit raised several legal issues concerning the adequacy and accuracy of the plan, including Lehigh’s continued contamination of Permanente Creek and the failure of the Environmental Impact Report (EIR) prepared for the RPA to address the impact of restoring the current pit mine while initiating a new pit, which Lehigh clearly intends to do.
This month, the City of Los Altos Hills voted to take the lead in preparing the amicus brief in support of BACE’s appeal. Since then, the cities of Cupertino, Los Altos and Atherton have also decided to join in the brief, while several other cities are considering doing the same.
The appeal of an earlier lawsuit brought by BACE that challenged the wholesale granting of vested rights to Lehigh by Santa Clara County also attracted wide support in the form of an amicus brief. Organizations that participated in that brief included the Midpeninsula Regional Open Space District, Breathe California, and the Committee for Green Foothills and the cities of Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, Portola Valley and Sunnyvale.
We expect that both appeals will be heard this spring.