Wednesday, March 30, 2005

More quarry issues

We've been dealing with problems at the Hanson Quarry, but it's only one of several active quarries in Santa Clara County.

Below is our comment letter on an EIR that would expand the Lexington Quarry. Some of the same issues involving a massive industrial project in a pristine area arise at Lexington as well as Hanson. It's also another example of cooperating with concerned neighbors.


March 25, 2005

Rob Eastwood
Santa Clara County Planning Office
70 West Hedding St., 7th Floor East Wing
San Jose CA 95110


Dear Rob,

The Committee for Green Foothills submits these comments regarding the Lexington Quarry Expansion Project Draft Environmental Impact Report. CGF generally supports the concerns and critiques that the Los Gatos Hillside Preservation League (League) has regarding the DEIR, and we refer you to the League’s forthcoming comment letter for the specifics of their concerns. The League’s concerns indicate flaws in the DEIR that make it an inadequate basis for proceeding with project approval. We wish to emphasize the following points:

· The County failed to consider that existing impacts from the quarry will end earlier without the Project than will be the case if the County approves the Project. In City of Santee v. County of San Diego ((1989) 214 Cal.App.3d 1438), California courts found inadequate an EIR that failed to consider the future effects of a “temporary” project. Many of the impacts from the currently operating quarry are similarly temporary – expanding the quarry is extending those impacts into the future. Failing to consider the future extension of the quarry’s noise, dust, and other impacts similarly makes this DEIR inadequate.

· We share the League’s concern that the County clearly articulate its own objectives in deciding whether to approve this Project. The DEIR states the applicant’s objectives without indicating whether the County accepts or rejects these objectives. DEIR at 30. The lack of clarity resurfaces in the Alternatives Analysis, where a conclusion refers to an alternative’s failure to meet the applicant’s objectives of making money as quickly as possible. DEIR at 161. If this objective is not the County’s objective, then it is no more relevant than an environmentalist objective - like eliminating all impacts from the quarry as soon as possible and converting the property to private or public open space.

· The DEIR’s Land Use analysis rewards the applicant for its past illegal behavior by emphasizing that the quarry’s permit violations constituted the most noticeable past impact from the quarry. DEIR at 66. No one questions that permit violations had even worse adverse impacts, but that is not the relevant question for the DEIR. Had the quarry not violated its permit, the DEIR would be forced to focus on the operating effects of the quarry in the past and whether those effects are incompatible with surrounding land uses.

· The DEIR states that operation during “proposed normal operating hours” would not result in “new, significant land use compatibility impacts”. DEIR at 66. This analysis ignores the City of Santee requirement that future extension of otherwise temporary impacts be analyzed. The present incompatibility would end sooner without the Project, and this difference was not analyzed in the DEIR.

· In addition to extending the Quarry’s impacts into the future, the DEIR notes expanded operating hours will occur on weekends and evenings. DEIR at 66. The next sentence reads, “While these activities could annoy residents in this relatively quite rural area, they would not constitute a significant land use compatibility impact.” Id. This sentence is a conclusion, not an analysis. Why is the extended operation merely “annoying” and not incompatible with surrounding land uses? CEQA requires substantial evidence in support of the agency’s conclusion, and the DEIR offers no evidence that the extended operation has insignificant impacts. CEQA also requires the DEIR demonstrate the “analytic route” that the agency takes in making its conclusion. Sierra Club v. California Coastal Comm’n. (1993) 19 Cal.App.4th 547, 556-557. Again, no analysis has been presented. Given that more than one out of four previously quiet Saturdays will be noisy, and that half of the active evening hours of 6 to 10 p.m. will now be noisy, the evidence indicates an incompatible use.

· The DEIR’s Erosion and Sedimentation analysis states that “Timing for planned removal of the rockfall protection fence will be included in the monitoring schedule in the Final Reclamation Plan.” DEIR at 123. The DEIR gives no indication of why it can ever be removed. The DEIR should clarify that the fence may need to be permanent and sufficient mitigation funding included for the fence’s upkeep and replacement.

· The DEIR at pages 94-95 mentions a landslide eroding into the creek that may have resulted from the quarry activities. If it is from the quarry, it is an ongoing violation of state and federal law, and the DEIR should address whether the Project will affect the slide, as well as what steps have been taken to enforce the law.

· A feasible impact from noise impacts includes the use of flashing lights instead of backup beepers under low-light conditions. The Hanson Permanente Quarry makes use of this mitigation, so it should also be applied to the Project. A significant fraction of the work at the Project site will occur under low-light conditions, especially with extended operating hours and especially in the wintertime. The Project should include this mitigation currently by a nearby quarry.

· The DEIR Air Quality analysis does not discuss increased carbon dioxide emissions that result from the Project. Carbon dioxide is the main pollutant causing global warming, which will have significant environmental impacts. The lack of a regulatory standard for carbon dioxide does not mean that it can be ignored, and other agencies take global warming effects into account. See, e.g., "Air Quality Analysis Guidance Handbook" (“The SCAQMD adopted a policy on global warming and stratospheric ozone depletion on April 6, 1990, that committed the SCAQMD to consider global impacts in its rule making and in drafting revisions to the AQMP”) available at Here, the increased traffic and increased quarrying activities indicate additional carbon dioxide emissions that could contribute to a cumulatively significant impact.

· The DEIR states that the purpose of the Project is to induce growth (“a large volume of construction grade rock is needed in Santa Clara County for new development” (DEIR at 30)) and then concludes the project does not have significant growth inducing impacts. DEIR at 166. We believe the conclusion is incorrect based on the fact that the quarry provides a critical element in the development of infrastructure. If the Project provides an important source of construction grade rock for new development, which the County implies it does (DEIR at 30), then the Project must create significant growth-inducing impacts. If the Project is not an important source, then the impacts created by the Project should weigh much more heavily against the minimal benefit that the County derives from its existence.

For the above reasons, we urge the County to not move forward with the Project as proposed. At the present time it may not be possible to end an incompatible land use of industrial quarry operations with an otherwise pristine environment. That provides no reason, however, for making the problem worse.

Please contact us if you have any questions.


Brian A. Schmidt
Legislative Advocate, Santa Clara County

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