Opposition to Lehigh operations, US

Opposition to Lehigh operations, US
Published: 18 November 2009

With a renewed five-year permit for Lehigh cement plant being considered, opponents of the facility in the Cupertino foothills are mounting a three-phase plan to halt operations.

The plant, south of Rancho San Antonio Open Space Preserve, has been operating since 1939, when Henry J. Kaiser opened it. The plant and quarry face increasing environmental challenges in the wake of tightening regulations and objections from surrounding residents, including those in Los Altos and Los Altos Hills.

Officials from Lehigh have maintained compliance with regulations and emphasize, as previous owners have, that the 2,500-acre quarry means inexpensive cement for the Bay Area. In addition to the plant operating permit, Lehigh is working on a reclamation plan that would expand quarry mining of limestone.

 Los Altos Hills resident Bill Almon is convinced local politicians and officials with the regulating Bay Area Air Quality Management District are not conducting enough oversight on Lehigh operations. Earlier this year, he formed the group, QuarryNo (QuarryNo.com), to get residents organized and active in their opposition.

Almon said Phase 1 of his plan involves his attending today’s meeting of the air district’s board of directors, along with newly elected Cupertino City Councilman Barry Chang, speaking under the public comment portion of the meeting.

Phase 2 would include a formal request for a place on the agenda at the next board of directors’ meeting, Dec. 2.

If phases 1 and 2 of Almon’s plan fail to elicit attention from the air district, he said he would proceed to Phase 3 – litigation.

To that end, he would work with Earthjustice to petition the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency on the basis that “the permit lacks sufficient periodic monitoring to assure compliance.”