Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Coalition Effort Stops The Trucks

Settlement with Diamond Rock Mine tentatively keeps some trucks away

By Nao Braverman
A settlement between Stop The Trucks Coalition and owners of the proposed Diamond Rock Mine, leaves coalition members a bit uneasy.
While the agreement does tentatively keep the Santa Barbara County mine’s trucks from traveling through Ojai until the year 2012, a simple donation from an unknowing community member could nullify everything.
“There are some benefits to the settlement, but it is very fragile,” said coalition spokesperson Michael Shapiro.
The Troesh family, owners of the mine and Troesh Materials Inc., are not to send any of their transport trucks through Ojai under the condition that no coalition member or Ojai resident participates in a lawsuit against them, their mine or their company. If any member of Ojai’s public directly or indirectly contributes funds to any legal challenge against Troesh Materials Inc., the Diamond Rock Mine or its owners, the contract is retracted.
“The coalition can’t pretend that we control the mind-set of a vast number of individuals,” said Shapiro. “All we can ask is that the citizens of Ojai understand the coalition’s objective.”
In mid-May, the Santa Barbara Planning Commission granted the Troesh family a conditional use permit to mine sand and gravel in Cuyama Valley, but added the condition that they could not send trucks through Ojai. Coalition members were pleased with the condition, but feared that it could easily be lifted in the future. This recent settlement, they hope, will help ease those concerns.
If the Troesh family did decide to appeal the Santa Barbara Planning Commission’s condition regarding Ojai, officials would turn to the project’s environ-mental impact report in the appeal process. But as the coalition members see it, the existing EIR does not adequately address impacts to the Ojai Valley.
With the new settlement in place, if the Troesh family wants to send trucks through Ojai after Jan. 1, 2012, they will have to prepare a new, more complete EIR, focused specifically on the effect that trucks will have in the Ojai Valley. This new EIR would completely analyze the impacts of project-generated traffic, noise, safety issues, and air pollution. In addition, they would also have to order and include the results of a special geologic study of the roads prepared by Caltrans.
Santa Barbara County officials did not put it in writing that a focused EIR would be prepared, but assured members of Stop the Trucks that such a preparation would be almost certain, according to Shapiro.
Following the settlement, coalition members also dropped their appeal to the Santa Barbara Planning Commission regarding the Diamond Rock Mine’s EIR.
“While we may have great empathy for the people in Cuyama Valley who claim to be suffering from the mine in their midst, we had to be pragmatic,” he said.
Shapiro added that coalition members would have liked to zero in on the mine itself as the root cause of the truck problem in Ojai. But that would be a painfully long process, with no assured victory, he said.
If community members are able to abide by the conditions of the agreement, it would eliminate one source of untold numbers of heavy double cargo trailers filled with gravel, he said.
The Diamond Rock Mine’s original application proposed 69 daily round-trip deliveries passing through Ojai during peak operation days and 46 round trips on an average day on top of existing truck traffic from other mines in the area.
Coalition members hope that if local residents refrain from contributing to any litigation against Troesh Materials Inc., the agreement could set a precedent for future mine projects.
Ali Virgilio, a member of the family owning the Ozena Valley Mine, would not comment on the coalition’s new settlement with Diamond Rock’s owners.
The Ozena mine is currently allowed to generate an average 66 one-way truck trips to and from the mine and 100 trips on days of peak productivity. The Ojai Quarry is allowed to generate 40 one-way trips, and the GPS mine has no restrictions at all.
Shapiro notes that it would be easy for owners of the Diamond Rock to trump the agreement. They could just get someone in Ojai, perhaps a truck driver to contribute to litigation against them, he said.
But Kerry Shapiro, the San Francisco-based attorney representing the Troesh family said that he didn’t think the owners of the Diamond Rock Mine would consider breaking the agreement in such an unscrupulous manner. “First of all, all the components of the company have acted in good faith,” he said. “But there is also marginal benefit of getting out of the settlement agreement in such a risky manner. If they did so, and the word got out, it would be a public relations disaster for the company.”If Troesh representatives were to settle on a condition regarding members of the Stop the Trucks Coalition only, they would still be subject to lawsuits from other Ojai residents. While the settlement does pose some challenges to the coalition, it was a necessary requirement for Troesh, said Kerry Shapiro.
At most, the agreement will give the coalition three years of respite during which they can turn their attention toward upcoming applications from the Ozena Valley Ranch and other mining companies.
“We just hope that people do take heed that if we don’t want the Diamond Rock Mine’s trucks coming through Ojai, we have to refrain from sending any money to litigation against Troesh, for Cuyama Valley and anyone else,” said Michael Shapiro.
“This agreement, together with the county’s unconditional ban, ensures that the wild landscapes and quiet solitude of the Los Padres National Forest are safe for now. This agreement will now let us focus on other mining proposals to ensure that they do not send trucks through our forests and communities. We hope that our achievements to date send a clear signal to other mining companies that our national forest should not be used as an industrial trucking route,” said Jeff Kuyper, executive director of Los Padres Forest Watch.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Good work. I'm tired of these trucks taking the Santa Ana route to hide. I've almost been hit several times. They are always going much faster than the speed limit. Time = Money.