Garfield County Commission supplements $250,000 to fight ongoing RMI lawsuit
An ongoing lawsuit brought by Rocky Mountain Industrials, Inc. (RMI) against Garfield County regarding county enforcement actions at its Glenwood Springs rock quarry continues to accrue substantial legal fees.
Garfield County commissioners on Monday allocated an additional $250,000 toward legal expenses related to the lawsuit. The funds will come from the county’s general fund reserves.
“We’re heavily involved in this lawsuit,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said. “We need to go ahead and fund it.”
In May 2019, the county issued violations against RMI related to its mining operations at the former Mid-Continent Quarry outside of Glenwood Springs. RMI was cited for its failure to comply with seasonal restrictions and various other violations pursuant to the county’s special-use permit for the quarry.
The county then issued an additional violation notice to RMI in March 2020, which determined the company engaged in prohibited operations during winter months. Mining is seasonally restricted at the quarry to protect wild game and environmental habitats.
RMI in response challenged both notices of violation by filing a lawsuit in state court. The company initially argued that the county has no authority to regulate mining operations because the site is also regulated by the federal government.
In response to the second notice of violation, RMI amended its complaint to include additional claims.
Garfield County attorney Tari Williams said Monday that the county had yet to appropriate 2021 funds to defend RMI’s claims.
Williams said the county’s involvement as a coordinating agency in the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) process to consider a proposed major expansion of the quarry, as well as its decision to intervene in an additional lawsuit filed against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management by the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance (GSCA), poses the need for more funding.
In relation to mining operations at the limestone quarry, the GSCA brought a lawsuit against the BLM and the United States Department of Interior. The challenge alleges that the BLM failed to take actions against RMI in relation to its mining operations and the sale of common variety limestone that does not comply with federal law.
“We’ll probably incur fees for all of that this year,” Williams said.
The $250,000 allotment from the county’s general fund marks the second time in six months the Board of Commissioners opted to defray legal fees related to the lawsuit. In July, the county supplemented the legal fees with $500,000, which was taken from its Oil and Gas Mitigation fund. That account has also been used by the county to challenge oil and gas regulations in Colorado.
“These lawsuits have put us in a challenging position of, there’s nothing we can do about it if we choose to defend them,” Williams said. “And, obviously, we have to defend them.”
So far, the city of Glenwood Springs, which also intervened in the lawsuit filed by RMI against the county, has garnered support from nearby municipalities, including Carbondale, Silt, New Castle and Rifle, among others, to stop RMI’s proposed mining expansion.
RMI has applied to expand the existing quarry site from 15.7 acres to 447 acres. The application includes an anticipated 500 truck trips per day during working hours, an increase from about 20 per day currently.
RMI also currently seeks to drill wells for a hydrology baseline study and has previously said it would keep the drill cores for exploratory purposes. In relation to the expansion, the BLM plans to begin the public comment stage of the proposed expansion into the new year.
The quarry site is located a mile north of Glenwood Springs, just off the popular Transfer Trail four-wheel-drive road into the Flat Tops.
Williams said the county right now does not have any money damage claims and that RMI is currently seeking an “unspecified amount of damages in their state court case.”
The county expects to file a motion for cost recovery on Wednesday, Williams said.
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