Ruling in quarry lawsuit favors Garfield County on 3 of 5 claims

City of Glenwood Springs Sign Technician Brett Blodgett (left), COGS Maintenance Crew Leader Travis Payne and Glenwood Springs Citizens' Alliance President Jeff Peterson install a Don't Mine Glenwood sign at the base of Transfer Trail on Tuesday.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

A Ninth District Court ruling issued this week favors Garfield County on several fronts in its legal battle with Rocky Mountain Industrials over enforcement actions at RMI’s rock quarry near Glenwood Springs.

RMI, as part of its May 2019 lawsuit against the county, sought a judicial review of its claims that the county has no regulatory authority over the Mid-Continent quarry on Transfer Trail, since it operates on federal land controlled by the Bureau of Land Management.

In 2019 and 2020, the county issued several notices of permit violations against the quarry related to operating outside its permitted boundary, operating during restricted winter months, failure to do prescribed road maintenance, and the types of materials being mined.

Judge Anne Norrdin, in an order dated Sunday, ruled in favor of RMI regarding the types of materials being extracted and sold from the quarry, limestone dust and dolomite.

The county did not have authority to issue violations on those matters, because the materials were not limited by county permits issued in 1982 and 2009, Norrdin ruled.

However, the county was within its right to issue violations related to the size of the quarry, winter operations and road maintenance agreements, she ruled.

“The pertinent record supports the (Board of County Commissioners) findings in 2019,” Norrdin wrote in regards to the violations issued in May of that year. “Additionally, county staff in 2020 did not act without jurisdiction or outside of their authority when they issued the second notice of violation.”

The ruling means the county commissioners and county staff were not being arbitrary or capricious in issuing the violation notices, County Attorney Tari Williams said during the Monday BOCC meeting.

“Essentially, it means the county has not been preempted by the state to regulate the size of the mining activity,” Williams said.

Representatives of RMI were not immediately available for comment on the ruling.

RMI is proposing a major expansion to the quarry, from its current 15.7 permitted acres to 447 acres, with an increase in truck traffic from around 20 truckloads per day now to as many as 500 daily between the hours of 9 a.m. and 4 p.m.

The BLM is preparing to conduct an environmental impact statement on the controversial expansion, in accordance with the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).

The city of Glenwood Springs, which has intervened in RMI’s lawsuit against the county, has adamantly opposed the expansion, and the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance formed in opposition to the proposal.

The city and the Alliance have also garnered support from neighboring communities including Carbondale, New Castle, Silt, Rifle and others in its fight against the mine expansion.

In addition to the RMI lawsuit against the county, the Citizens Alliance has sued the BLM over its decision to allow the quarry to operate outside of its federal permit restrictions while the expansion plan is being reviewed.

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