Garfield County moves toward stricter regulation of mining projects
Two months into a six-month moratorium on mining and gravel permits, Garfield County is moving toward stricter regulations on rock mining projects.
The commissioners imposed the moratorium in November after RMR Industrials informed state regulators it would seek an update to their current permit for the Mid-Continent limestone quarry north of Glenwood Springs.
The tighter regulations would require mining projects to submit a host of more detailed reports and impact analyses when seeking a permit.
Bobby Wagner, vice president of RMR, attended the meeting and asked the commissioners whether the additional regulations would duplicate studies for other regulatory agencies.
“What is the county’s plan as far as those additional deep-dive studies that will be allowed with (the proposed regulations), if they’ve already been completed at a previous stage in the game?” Wagner asked.
County staff would review reports to see if they meet the requirements under the new rules, commission chair John Martin replied.
RMR is in the process of seeking a Bureau of Land Management permit to expand the existing limestone quarry, but would need permits from the state of Colorado and Garfield County as well.
The goal of looking at new regulations is an opportunity for the board of commissioners to “make sure that you’re protecting the citizens from the impacts of mining that are not covered by other regulatory systems,” consultant Barbara Green told a special meeting of county commissioners Wednesday.
The process Garfield County plans on using is known as 1041 regulations, named for the 1974 law that allowed counties to require more permitting of areas and activities that are of importance to the state.
In a way, the 1041 powers were the state’s way of deputizing counties to regulate local concerns through county-level permitting, but 1041 regulations don’t replace regulations from state agencies.
The county has clear regulations on gravel projects, which will stay mostly the same, but county staff believes mining regulations could be strengthened, senior county planner Sheryl Bower told the commissioners.
“Looking at how extensive the gravel (regulation) was and what we have on mining, we really see a lot of opportunity to improve what we have on the mining side,” Bower said.
Under the current code, mining projects must submit impact analysis, but under 1041, applicants could be required to submit socioeconomic impact analysis, a description of technical and financial feasibility of the project, and environmental impact analysis on a host of areas, according to a county staff report.
“It’s a much more thorough package of submittal requirements,” county planner Glenn Hartmann said.
One concern in the process, which the staff will consider while drafting the new regulations, is the burden of enforcing tighter regulations.
“Applications on review of permits, etc., are quite lengthy and expensive for the applicant, depending on what you adopt,” Martin said.
“It’s not our intent to make the regulations more onerous,” Bower said.
The 1041 regulations are scaled to the size and impacts of a proposed project.
“If someone comes in with some sort of a proposal for mining, and it was so self-evidently not going to cause impacts, you go through an administrative process and you can make a finding of no significant impact. That’s a very valuable thing to have in your regulations,” Green said.
The county already uses 1041 powers to regulate airports, major roadways, transit projects, water and landfills.
The commissioners plan to hold a public meeting on draft 1041 regulations in May. The moratorium expires May 18.
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