State renews leases sought by cement company

State renews leases sought by cement company
Published: 22 November 2006

Facing a court order requiring a decision, the state land commissioner said Tuesday he will renew a cement company’s mineral leases for state trust land regarded as environmentally sensitive by conservationists.

Commissioner Mark Winkleman released a draft order authorizing 15-year renewals without further renewal rights for the leases while imposing a number of conditions that he said were intended to protect the environment.

California Portland Cement Co., a subsidiary of Tokyo-based Taiheiyo Corp., had obtained an order from a Maricopa County Superior Court judge requiring the Land Department to act on the company’s long-stalled renewal applications.

California Portland, which is headquartered in Glendora, Calif., has held leases on parcels totaling 70 acres in Davidson Canyon in southeastern Pima County between Tucson and Sonoita since as early as 1976 and 1980 and requested renewals in 1995 and 2000.

Though the company had only engaged in very limited production on the property, it has said it wants to extract limestone for use in its Rillito cement plan northwest of Tucson.

The company filed lease renewal applications before the original 20-year leases expired, and it went to court earlier year after there was no immediate action on a positive recommendation in July 2005 by the Land Department’s mineral section.

In granting the company’s request for an order directing the department to act on the renewals, Judge Douglas Rayes’ Oct. 17 order said Winkleman had not met his duty to act on the renewals in a timely fashion.

The company contended that the department sat on the applications for political reasons.

Winkleman said Tuesday that the department’s decision-making process was slowed by an inadequate budget, a need to re-evaluate leasing practices in the wake of a court ruling, a changing market for mineral products and a desire to consider Pima County’s concerns about the renewal requests.

Environmental-related provisions in the renewal order include reclamation requirements, species monitoring and steps to prevent water pollution.