Judge rejects RMI lawsuit against Garfield County | PostIndependent.com

Judge rejects RMI lawsuit against Garfield County

Work continues at the RMI quarry adjacent to the Transfer Trail in 2020.
Peter Baumann / Post Independent

A Garfield County District Court judge on Saturday rejected a lawsuit filed by a Denver-based mining company alleging Garfield County government could not regulate their rock quarry mining operation north of Glenwood Springs because it’s on federal land.

Rocky Mountain Industrials initially began mining 15.7 permitted acres near Transfer Trail during certain times of the year and limited to certain materials, but was found by Garfield County officials in spring 2019 to be operating outside of those permit allowances.

RMI has since sought approval from the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to expand operations to 447 acres, which would increase truck traffic from about 20 truckloads per day to as many as 500 daily between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. That proposal is still under review.

The Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance in November 2018 filed a complaint with Garfield County over suspected violations at the quarry. Garfield County Commissioners directed staff to investigate. Following findings presented in March 2019, commissioners held hearings and issued a formal notice of violation on May 13, 2019.

RMI responded by filing the lawsuit against the county later that year. Since then, Garfield County has spent upwards of $500,000 defending the lawsuit, Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said on Thursday.

“There’s always other avenues to appeal that,” he said. “So we’ll wait until it’s completely over, and we’ll sit and talk to all parties and see what we can do to resolve everything.”

District Court Judge Anne K. Norrdin stated in her ruling that RMI’s reconsideration must allege a tangible, indisputable error of judgment in order to successfully file an appeal.

“The court has considered the arguments made by (RMI) in support of its reconsideration request,” Norrdin stated. “The court cannot find that it has made a manifest error in fact or law that ‘clearly mandates’ a different result. As such, (RMI’s) request for reconsideration is denied.”

Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance President Jeff Peterson said in the Tuesday news release that the ruling is great news for the community.

“(Norrdin’s) ruling shows the Garfield County commissioners were on solid ground when they cited RMI for violating the special use permit that governs its limestone quarry operations,” he said.

A decision favoring RMI could have eroded the ability of counties to ensure that mining and other industries on federal lands meet local environmental standards, Peterson said in the release.

In her June 26 order, Judge Norrdin ruled that the county special use permit “does not authorize unrestricted or unregulated mining activities by RMI, nor does it insulate RMI from action by the BOCC.”

The judge also firmly rejected RMI’s allegations that the three county commissioners — John Martin, Tom Jankovsky and Mike Samson — were biased in their handling of the permit violations, the release states.

She wrote, “The record reviewed by the court, including of the March and April 2019 hearings, reveals nothing to indicate actual bias on the part of the (commissioners) with respect to RMI’s noncompliance with the special use permit, and RMI’s assertions about bias are speculative.”

Editor’s note: This story was corrected to accurately reflect the timeline for violations being reported to Garfield County.

Reporter Ray K. Erku can be reached at 612-423-5273 or rerku@postindependent.com.

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