Annual virtual town hall planned on Cupertino’s Permanente Quarry as Lehigh sues County over processing delays

Aerial view of the Lehigh Permanente Quarry

On March 3, Santa Clara County Supervisor Joe Simitian is hosting an annual multi-agency informational update related to operations at Lehigh Southwest Cement / Permanente Quarry, located in the Cupertino foothills.

The purpose of the meeting is to review and discuss the status of various local, state, and federal agency oversight efforts, as well as permitting processes and pending applications necessary for cement plant and quarry operations.

Among the expected topics of discussion are two applications for reclamation plan amendments submitted recently by Lehigh Southwest Cement Company, according to meeting organizers.

The conversation will likely also cover Lehigh’s lawsuit against the County of Santa Clara for its failure to process Lehigh’s application to update the Permanente Quarry’s reclamation plan.

Announced today, the lawsuit alleges the County has failed to advance the processing of the application it accepted as complete in November of 2019, and is now seeking to challenge its own prior determination of completeness, according to a statement issued by Lehigh. It asserts the County is also threatening to reconsider the scope of Lehigh’s vested rights, which were expressly recognized by a Board of Supervisors Resolution in 2011.

The updated plan would enable Lehigh to reclaim the quarry, and in the interim to continue to mine in areas within its vested rights and at levels consistent with historical operations.  Lehigh claims the delays in processing the approved plan may undermine the Quarry’s ability to operate and plan for its future. It also has potential to impact Lehigh’s ability to produce the raw materials necessary to achieve many of the community’s highest priorities—such as building affordable housing, and maintaining roads and transportation systems, public schools and community facilities. 

“Despite so much at stake for us and our community, the County has been unable to meet its legal obligation to timely process Lehigh’s application, and has chosen instead to obstruct the application and revisit settled vested rights,” said Guerra. “We appreciate that this application is complicated, but to have made no progress in over a year, while also threatening to return the application to its starting point, is beyond unreasonable.”

Participating in the March 3 annual Permanente Quarry update meeting are representatives from the City of Cupertino, the San Francisco Regional Water Quality Control Board, the Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the Santa Clara County Planning Department, the Santa Clara County Department of Environmental Health, the Santa Clara Valley Water District (Valley Water), and the Santa Clara County Office of the County Counsel. 

Simitian organized the annual community meeting for residents to hear directly from close to a dozen regulatory agencies with jurisdiction over the Lehigh Quarry, and to address communication issues by creating a forum for the agencies to talk to one another.

“The solution to a right hand/left hand not communicating problem is to communicate,” said Simitian. “We’re doing that now.”

The virtual event takes place on March 3 from 6:30 to 8:30pm; click here to register.