RMI appeals decision in case against Garfield County over quarry jurisdiction dispute
Rocky Mountain Industrials, operators of the limestone quarry on Transfer Trail north of Glenwood Springs, recently appealed a district court ruling siding with Garfield County in the company’s lawsuit over alleged permit violations at the quarry.
A formal notice of appeal was filed with the Colorado Court of Appeals on Aug. 12 by the Glenwood Springs law firm Garfield & Hecht, on behalf of RMI.
On June 26, Garfield County District Judge Anne K. Norrdin rejected the 2019 lawsuit filed against the county by the Denver-based mining company.
The lawsuit claims Garfield County government does not have authority to regulate the quarry because it’s on federal land and also operating under a U.S. Bureau of Land Management lease and permits.
The court granted Garfield County’s motion for summary judgment in its favor with the June ruling. In January, the court upheld three of the county’s citations for issuing a notice of violation to RMI related to quarry operations.
Norrdin stated in her June 26 ruling that RMI must allege a tangible, indisputable error of judgment in order to successfully file an appeal.
In the appeal, RMI reiterates its claim that no evidentiary hearing was held by the county before issuing its notice of permit violations regarding such things as hours of operation and operating outside of allowed seasonal restrictions.
“As the trial court found, there is insufficient evidence in the record that was before the (Board of County Commissioners) at the time it made its quasi-judicial decision to support some of the alleged violations,” according to the appeal.
“… Other alleged violations are invalid because they are an attempt to prohibit activities that are expressly authorized by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management and the Colorado Division of Reclamation Mining and Safety,” RMI claims in the appeal. “Thus, the (notice of violations) are preempted by federal and state law.”
RMI has been operating for the past several years on about 20 leased acres near Transfer Trail under a county permit that limited operations to certain times of the year and daily hours. Permits also limited mining to certain materials.
The operators were found by Garfield County officials in May 2019 to be operating outside of those permit allowances.
In 2018, RMI began seeking approval from the BLM to greatly expand operations to more than 320 acres, and increase trucking from about 20 truckloads per day to as many as 500 daily loads between 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. to and from a proposed new railroad loadout along Devereux Road.
That proposal is still under review by the BLM and is expected to go through a full Environmental Impact Statement process before a decision is made. The BLM is also conducting a separate Environmental Assessment to determine the impacts of RMI’s plan to drill five groundwater monitoring wells in the mine expansion area.
The Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance, which opposes the quarry expansion, filed the violations complaint with the county in November 2018. County commissioners directed staff to investigate and issued the formal notice of violation on May 13, 2019. RMI then sued the county claiming improper jurisdiction over the quarry.
The Citizens’ Alliance, in an Aug. 13 newsletter update to supporters, said the fight over the quarry operation and proposed expansion is “far from over.”
“We are also working to hold RMI and the U.S. Bureau of Land Management accountable for aspects of the current quarry operations that violate county and federal permits,” Jeff Peterson, president of the Citizens’ Alliance, said in the update.
In its lawsuit against the county, RMI served the Citizens’ Alliance with a subpoena seeking its written communications with the BLM, Garfield County and the city of Glenwood Springs, as well as lists of its donors and supporters. The Citizens’ Alliance hired legal counsel to successfully prevent disclosure of its records, Peterson said.
In addition to the RMI lawsuit against the county, the Citizens’ Alliance has separately sued the BLM in U.S. District Court, charging the agency with failing to properly regulate current mining activity at the RMI limestone quarry. The Citizens’ Alliance claims certain activities ongoing at the mine are not allowed under RMI’s federal mining permit.
Outside of its Garfield County operations, RMI appears to be moving forward with development of its 620-acre Rocky Mountain Rail Park in Adams County outside Denver, according to the Citizens’ Alliance.
“RMI obtained final development approvals from Adams County in September 2020 and obtained $77.3 million in financing in March and April 2021,” the Citizens’ Alliance reported in its Aug. 13 update, saying RMI intends to use 120 acres as the eastern rail loadout for the limestone it expects to mine in Glenwood Springs.
Senior Reporter/Managing Editor John Stroud can be reached at 970-384-9160 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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