April 14, 2024
The agreement puts the county one step closer to reclaiming and restoring the site.

Lehigh Hanson will now have to officially cease cement production at its quarry west of Cupertino in the wake of the company’s legally binding agreement with Santa Clara County.

On Tuesday afternoon, the Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors voted unanimously to sign off on the agreement, moving one step closer to reclaiming and restoring the 3,510-acre site.

Supervisor Joe Simitian, whose district encompasses the plant and has long advocated for its closure, called it “the end of 84 years of cement manufacturing on the site.”

Lehigh has played a large role in Bay Area construction projects since 1939, but in recent years, residents and environmentalists have pushed for its closure due to the pollution emitted from the plant.

Last year, Lehigh announced that it wouldn’t be restarting cement production after it halted the use of the kiln in April 2020. And in April, the board asked the county’s attorneys to make it official and draft up an agreement.

Tuesday’s decision puts the county closer to achieving Simitian’s three goals: close the plant, stop any new quarrying activity and begin the restoration and reclamation process.

“That means one and two on the three-part to-do list will be done,” Simitian said at the meeting.

Supervisor Otto Lee said he was “ecstatic” over the agreement, which would stop “many dangerous and poisonous gasses and emissions.”

“This is a long overdue action to save our public’s health,” Lee said. “And for more than eight decades these emissions have caused air and water pollution, like rainwater runoff, like selenium, smog, acid raid, climate change and have certainly aggravated health conditions like asthma and emphysema.”

In the last decade, Lehigh has been hit with more than 2,100 violations and accrued millions of dollars in fines relating to pollution. In 2015, the company paid $2,550,000 to the Environmental Protection Agency and the Regional Water Quality Control Board, and in 2020 it spent $12 million on pollution control technology across 11 plants in eight states because it violated the Clean Water Act, the Clean Air Act, California water codes and other local laws.

A spokesperson for Lehigh Hanson could not immediately be reached for comment.