Garfield County seeks to intervene in GSCA’s federal lawsuit against BLM
County says it can’t enforce RMI’s special use permit if BLM doesn’t properly enforce its own mining mandates
On Friday, May 22, the Garfield Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) filed a motion to intervene in the Citizens’ Alliance lawsuit against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM), which argues that BLM is failing to properly manage the Rocky Mountain Industrials limestone quarry.
The BOCC seeks to join the case in support of the Alliance’s legal challenge to BLM, and to represent the broader interests of the entire county.
The case, 1:20-cv-00658, is being heard in U.S. District Court in Denver, and was recently reassigned to Judge Christine Arguello.
Garfield County argues that its special use permit governing the quarry relies on BLM to enforce its rules governing mining on federal lands.
“The (court’s) decision in this matter could affect the county’s special use permit, and hamper the BOCC’s ability to protect the health and welfare of the residents of the county,” states the county’s motion.
“We are heartened to have the legal support of our county government as we ask the federal court to force BLM to properly manage RMI’s quarry operations,” said Jeff Peterson, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance.
The Citizens’ Alliance lawsuit contends that since 2016, BLM has allowed Rocky Mountain Industrials to mine and sell limestone for uses that are not allowed under the company’s federal mining permit.
“BLM is allowing RMI to mine limestone for road base, rip-rap and similar uses without the required permit and without a sales contract,” Peterson said.
City okayed to intervene in RMI suit against Garfield County
City’s role in state court case ‘a crucial first step’
The City of Glenwood Springs has won court approval for its motion to intervene in the state court lawsuit filed by RMI against Garfield County.
On May 8, Garfield District Judge Anne K. Norrdin granted the city’s motion to intervene in the case, 19-CV-30087, which the city requested on Jan. 6.
RMI filed suit against Garfield County in May 2019 after the county issued a Notice of Violation citing five operational violations of the mine’s special use permit.
In its case, RMI argues that mining permits issued by state and federal agencies supersede the county’s regulatory authority.
By seeking to intervene, the City of Glenwood Springs joined in support of Garfield County in its defense against RMI’s suit.
“The court’s granting the motion to intervene is a crucial first step,” said City Attorney Karl Hanlon, “but we have a long road ahead of us to protect the city and its citizens.”
The city’s motion expands the issues of the case to include impacts that directly affect the city, including access roads to the mine, fire and police services, as well as protecting tourism revenues, open space and the environment.
As the case moves forward, the city also seeks a judicial ruling ensuring “that RMI complies with local laws when they are more stringent than federal regulations.”
Garfield County enacts 1041 mining standards
RMI would have to meet standards to win approval for its proposed mine expansion
On May 11, the Garfield Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously to enact new standards for mining operations using Colorado’s 1041 review process.
The standards give Garfield County government clear and detailed authority to protect the environment and public health, safety and welfare from negative impacts of mining.
The standards are grouped in a single section of the Garfield County Land Use and Development Code, Article 14, replacing various pieces of regulation that were scattered throughout the code.
Under the standards, mining companies are given clear expectations for earning permit approvals and running mining operations over time.
Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance strongly supported the county’s work in developing these new mining standards.
Rocky Mountain Industrials would have to prove it could meet the standards in order to obtain a county permit for its proposed mine expansion.