‘Lack of response’ from BLM regarding quarry’s alleged violations prompts letter, Glenwood reps’ visit to Washington, D.C.
Matthew Bennett –
A recent letter from the city of Glenwood Springs to officials in the nation’s capital — followed by a personal visit — concerning Rocky Mountain Resources’ operations at the Transfer Trail limestone quarry does not mince words.
The two-page letter sent to the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), in addition to Sens. Cory Gardner, Michael Bennet and Rep. Scott Tipton, was a result of “the lack of response by the BLM.”
It makes four requests of the agency within the U.S. Department of the Interior — now headed by Rifle native David Bernhardt, a former attorney and lobbyist with the law firm now representing RMR.
Additionally, the letter asks that the BLM not allow RMR to “bully its way to an exponential expansion at its Glenwood Springs Mine.”
“A delegation from Glenwood Springs traveled to Washington DC to meet with Senator Gardner, Representative Tipton and Senator Bennet’s senior staff to discuss the city’s concerns about the existing permit violations at Rocky Mountain Resources mine and future expansion plans,” City Manager Debra Figueroa said this week.
“The meetings were productive, and our federal elected officials all expressed concerns and support for our community.”
In 2016, RMR purchased the Mid-Continent limestone quarry on the federally leased land near the base of Transfer Trail north of Glenwood Springs.
RMR, which has offices in Los Angeles and Denver, has its eyes set on a major expansion to the mine. That expansion seeks “to expand mining operations by 5,000 [percent], to allow mining 12 hours per day, blasting from [9 a.m. to 4 p.m.] and hauling out as many as 500 trucks per day for 20 years,” according to the city’s letter.
The document stated that RMR was “operating illegally” and “in violation of its current BLM Plan of Operations.”
The Western Mining Action Project and its counsel, on behalf of the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance (GSCA), already detailed those issues in an Oct. 11, 2018 letter sent to the BLM’s Colorado State, Northwest Field and Colorado River Valley Field Offices.
However, the GSCA, which has over 1,000 petition signers and hundreds of volunteers, has yet to receive any acknowledgment from any of those BLM offices regarding that October letter.
“We appreciate the input from local governments and from the local community,” BLM Colorado State Office Director of Communications Steven Hall said Thursday. “We have committed to having this be an open and transparent process. that is what we have done thus far, and that is what we will certainly do going forward.”
Hall confirmed that the BLM Colorado State office had received the October letter; a letter adopted by the city and one that raised several issues against RMR.
First, it stated that RMR was “extracting and selling common variety limestone” for road base, boulders, riprap and other construction materials instead of “chemical grade limestone dust as a locatable mineral,” as outlined in its permits.
It also alleged that RMR was not paying federal royalties on those rock sales.
Second, the letter pointed out that the company was operating on 20.8 acres instead of the 15.7 acres authorized by its BLM plan of operations.
Third, it detailed that RMR had “undertaken unauthorized exploratory drilling” in December 2016.
When pressed as to why the BLM did not respond to the letter, Hall said it was because it was processed more as a comment document.
“That was the determination that was made at the time. That it was more of a comment letter, or a statement letter, than necessarily a letter that was asking BLM to answer questions,” Hall explained. “We appreciate the input but we did not respond to it.”
Garfield County commissioners have also asked RMR to rectify many of the same issues by June 1, as there have also been violations regarding the county permit for the mine.
FOUR NEW REQUESTS
The latest letter, dated May 7 and signed by Mayor Jonathan Godes and former mayor and current GSCA member Michael Gamba, had four requests of the BLM.
• “Immediately suspend acceptance or processing of a revised plan of operations until current operating permit violations are corrected;”
• That the “BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office hold a public hearing regarding these current non-compliance issues, and potential human health environmental and community impacts from a proposed expansion;”
• “Require a NEPA Environmental Impact Statement process, including a Cultural Resources Survey on potential impacts on the Ute People, to determine the significant impacts on human health, the environment and the community that could result from the proposed mining expansion;
• “Conduct a full Validation Determination process with robust public participation, on whether the current mine is, and the proposed expanded mining operations would be, for the purpose of extraction of locatable minerals, or only common variety minerals.”
The city’s letter also stated that it was requesting BLM assistance to stop RMR from continuing to operate outside of its lawful plan of operations.