Ask Supervisors to Make Lehigh Quarry Pay for Violations

Lehigh Quarry. Photo by Jitze Couperus

On Tuesday, June 7, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors will receive a report summarizing the more than 2,100 known legal violations Lehigh Quarry and cement plant have been cited for during the last 10 years by local, state, and federal agencies. Please ask the Supervisors to finally begin imposing its own fines on Lehigh Quarry, and to expedite its research on the possibility of buying the land, shutting down operations, and restoring the environment!

What’s Happening

For decades, Lehigh has been operating the largest active quarry in the foothills on the outskirts of Cupertino. Fractured regulatory authority over Lehigh Quarry makes it hard to understand the extent and nature of its legal violations. Yet, it is well known that the quarry has violated environmental regulations protecting air and water quality on a significant number of occasions.

Many of these violations were very serious, causing Lehigh to incur millions of dollars in fines and penalties by a number of agencies. However, the County has yet to impose its own fines despite issuing Lehigh hundreds of Notices of Violations. On June 7, the Supervisors will discuss the report – released in May – on the quarry’s more than 2,100 legal violations from 2012 to 2021.

The County has crucial enforcement responsibilities at Lehigh and the quarry operators are sophisticated corporate executives who are well aware of their responsibilities. It is time for the County to financially incentivize Lehigh to end its status as a long-time offender and comply with the law.

In addition to requesting the report, in February the Supervisors also directed County staff to research options for acquiring and shutting down the quarry and cement plant and restoring the local environment.

Why It’s Important

For decades, mining operations at Lehigh Quarry have discharged toxic selenium into Permanente Creek and contributed to air pollution, noise, and dust in the region. Hundreds of acres of the Lehigh property have been reduced to moonscape conditions. The thousands of legal violations from both the quarry and cement plant have made the impacts even worse.

Santa Clara County has crucial enforcement responsibilities at Lehigh and should issue fines, not simply require fixes of the violations. “Fix the problem” without a fine might be sufficient for a homeowner who might not know what activity requires a permit, but the quarry operators are sophisticated corporate executives who are well aware of their responsibilities. Their repeated violations without being fined suggest they need more financial incentives to comply with the law.

One way to stop more violations from happening and reverse much of the environmental damage would be to buy the quarry, cement plant, and surrounding lands. This could provide an immediate benefit to the community and begin the largest environmental restoration project in Santa Clara County’s history outside of the Bay wetlands.

What You Can Do

Please email the Supervisors and ask them to start fining Lehigh Quarry as other agencies do, and to expedite its research on the possibility of buying the land, shutting down operations, and restoring the environment!

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