Citizens’ Alliance sues BLM over withheld limestone mine docs

Suit filed as appeals over blacked-out pages go unanswered

On Feb. 15, 2024, the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance filed a lawsuit in federal court against the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) seeking the release of important documents related to the limestone mine on Transfer Trail.

Located on federal land managed by BLM, the mine is operated by Rocky Mountain Industrials. The operation faces a compliance order from BLM over permit violations, and a recent BLM study delivered a major setback for the company’s quest to expand the mine.

Initially concerned about the mining company’s expansion proposal, announced in 2018, the Citizens’ Alliance filed formal requests for documents in 2018, 2019 and 2022. The requests, filed under the federal Freedom of Information Act, sought documents from BLM about mine operations, limestone sales and permit enforcement actions.

The new federal suit contends that while BLM delivered some of the requested documents over several installments, the agency withheld or blacked out thousands of pages.

“Many of the documents that BLM did produce were so heavily blacked-out, they were unreadable and essentially meaningless,” said Jeff Peterson, president of the Citizens’ Alliance.

A particular sticking point is that certain types of documents that BLM willingly released in response to the Alliance’s 2018 and 2019 Freedom of Information Act requests, such as limestone sales invoices, were withheld when the Alliance made a follow-up request in 2022.

“BLM never offered any justification for this abrupt change. It simply blacked-out entire sets of documents,” Peterson said.

The Citizens’ Alliance filed administrative appeals to the U.S. Department of Interior over the withheld documents in each of its three Freedom of Information Act requests, in 2020, 2021 and 2023, but the agency hasn’t issued a decision on any of the three appeals.

“Because BLM and Interior have refused our requests for public documents, and the appeals process has yielded no results, we have no choice but to ask the federal court to order the agency to release the documents,” said Peterson.

“The limestone mine and the mine expansion are like a black cloud hanging over our community. The public has a right to know what is happening on public lands so close to our city,” he added.

The Citizens’ Alliance filed a fourth administrative appeal on Feb. 2 over blacked-out pages in its most recent Freedom of Information Act request, which was for BLM’s Determination of Common Variety report.

Of the Determination report’s 205 pages, 75 pages were fully blacked out and another 23 pages were partially blacked out. That appeal is not included in the new lawsuit, since it is still within the time frame for the agency to respond.

Attorneys Roger Flynn and Jeff Parsons with the Western Mining Action Project, in Lyons, and Travis Stills with Energy and Conservation Law, in Durango, are representing the Citizens’ Alliance in the suit.

View of the limestone quarry from the Glenwood Caverns tramway.

A view of the Rocky Mountain Industrials limestone quarry, located on public lands directly north of Glenwood Springs, Colo., as seen in February 2024.

Download the Feb. 15, 2024, case filing here.

U.S. District Court in Denver, Colo.

Case No. 24-CV-445

(32 pages, 209 KB)

Share this post to your network.