RMR quarry owners sue Garfield County to get out of permit violation demands
Rocky Mountain Resources has accused the Garfield County commissioners of acting “arbitrarily, capriciously (and) irrationally,” in a lawsuit filed against the county Tuesday.
RMR Industrials, which owns the Mid-Continent limestone quarry north of Glenwood Springs, claims the county does not have legal authority to enforce a notice of noncompliance issued by the county last month.
Lawyers for RMR asked the federal court to prevent Garfield County from enforcing permit violations in a civil complaint filed 11 days before the deadline to come under compliance.
The Garfield County board of commissioners declared after a public hearing April 22 that the quarry was out of compliance with the county’s permit in five areas, and gave RMR until June 1 to address get back on the good side of the permit.
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RMR said in its complaint that the county has no authority to enforce its permit because federal permits from the Bureau of Land Management supersede local government orders.
The commissioners “lack the authority to prohibit or materially restrict uses of the property that are not prohibited or similarly restricted under applicable BLM permits and approvals,” the lawsuit said.
The 16-page complaint lays out RMR’s defense to each of the county’s allegations of permit violation. For the size of the quarry operation, RMR said the county did not provide any maps or surveys to prove they were operating outside the permit boundaries.
RMR has previously said that the quarry was already operating outside the permitted area when they acquired it from previous owner, CalX Minerals.
RMR claimed that county commissioners “have been acting arbitrarily, capriciously, irrationally and with reckless or deliberate indifference to RMR’s protected mining rights.”
Regarding the county’s allegation that RMR was selling products other than limestone dust, used in coal mines, RMR said such sales were not restricted in the county’s permit.
The county also found that RMR had violated the permit by conducting exploratory drilling, which was not specifically prohibited, and conducted crushing and blasting operations between Dec. 15 and April 15, which was not allowed under the permit.
For both those allegations, RMR said it had received BLM approval and argued that federal permission trumped local enforcement.
If federal regulations or approvals conflict with county-level restrictions, “the federal provisions preempt the county provisions,” RMR said in its lawsuit.
County attorneys were not immediately available to discuss the lawsuit.
RMR is seeking approval from the BLM to expand quarry operations from about 21 acres to 320 acres and operate seven days a week year-round, with the aim of removing 5 million tons of rock each year.
Glenwood Springs city officials, along with the recently formed Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance, vehemently oppose the quarry expansion, arguing the impacts on nearby residential neighborhoods and the city as a whole from truck traffic, noise and pollution would be too great.
After the public meeting in April, which nearly 200 people attended, RMR president Greg Dangler said he would “continue to work with the county and maintain their standards.”
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The coronavirus threat delayed the opening of developed campgrounds in the Roaring Fork, Fryingpan and Crystal valleys. The Forest Service will phase them back in by June 12.