Judge ends RMI lawsuit against Garfield County

RMI claims challenging county authority to regulate limestone quarry are rejected

On June 26, Garfield District Court Judge Anne K. Norrdin issued an order granting Garfield County’s motion for summary judgment in the lawsuit filed by Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI) against the county two years ago.

“Judge Norrdin’s order is truly great news for our community,” said Jeff Peterson, president of the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance (GSCA).

“Her 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,” Peterson said.

The dispute began in November 2018 when members of the GSCA filed a complaint with Garfield County over suspected permit violations at the limestone quarry operated by RMI.

The Garfield County commissioners directed county staff to investigate the complaint and report back. With the staff report in hand by early March 2019, the commissioners held public hearings in March and April, and then issued a formal Notice of Violations on May 13, 2019.

Rather than work with county officials to bring the quarry operation into compliance, RMI filed a lawsuit against Garfield County less than two weeks later. The suit (2019CV30087) alleged that because the quarry is on federal land, the county government did not have authority to regulate the company’s mining operations.

RMI was represented in the case by attorneys with Garfield & Hecht, P.C., of Glenwood Springs and Aspen.

The City of Glenwood Springs intervened in the case in early 2020, seeking to “protect its municipal interests, its recreational and aesthetic characteristics and economic revenue.”

Judge Norrdin’s new order follows an extensive order she issued on Jan. 31 that addressed the violations that Garfield County cited against RMI.

She upheld Garfield County’s citations against RMI for expanding the quarry beyond the permitted 16.3 acres, for crushing rock during the winter closure period of Dec. 15 to April 15, and for not cooperating with the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park on shared use of Transfer Trail.

If RMI had prevailed, the case would have set a dangerous precedent for counties across the West. An adverse decision could have eroded the ability of counties to ensure that mining and other industries on federal lands meet local environmental standards, Peterson said.

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.

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 non-compliance with the special use permit, and RMI’s assertions about bias are speculative.”

Peterson said Judge Norrdin’s January and June orders affirm the efforts by Garfield County and the City of Glenwood Springs defending local government authority.

“We are pleased to see that Judge Norrdin summarily rejected RMI’s claims challenging the county’s authority,” he said.

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