County approves additional $500,000 to address limestone extraction matters

July 21, 2020

GARFIELD COUNTY, CO – The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners has approved a supplemental budget request of $500,000 to cover expenses for legal matters related to the limestone quarry operated in Garfield County by Rocky Mountain Aggregates, Inc. and RMR Industrials, Inc. (collectively, “RMI”). The county is supplementing its previous allocation, in light of the expanding scope of legal matters related to RMI’s quarry.

As Garfield County Attorney Tari Williams explained to the board, the additional funding was requested “to cover some of the expenses we are incurring for the various efforts in relation to the limestone quarry.”

In 2019, RMI filed a lawsuit in state court against the Board of County Commissioners, in which it challenged the county’s authority to regulate the RMI mining operations, and the notice of violation that the county issued to RMI that year for failing to comply with the permit and county regulations governing its operations. RMI recently amended its complaint to assert additional claims against the board and now challenges the most recent notice of violation issued to RMI in March 2020.

The county issued RMI the newer notice of violation based on its determination that RMI had engaged in prohibited operations during the winter months. RMI’s operations are restricted in the winter to protect wild game and environmental habitats. The county is in the process of certifying the record of evidence supporting this second notice of violation and the parties thereafter will brief their positions for the court.

RMI also is seeking to drill monitoring wells in connection with the proposed expansion for its mine. While RMI and the Bureau of Land Management (“BLM”) initially sought to drill the monitoring wells without first conducting an environmental assessment (“EA”), the BLM acceded to requests from the Board of County Commissioners and the public to conduct an EA in light of the significant risks and uncertainty posed by the proposed drilling activity. The county is currently participating as a cooperating agency in the EA process, seeking to ensure that RMI and BLM take all necessary precautions before proceeding with any drilling.

The county also has sought to join the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance in a lawsuit brought in federal court against the BLM and the United States Department of Interior, among others. The lawsuit challenges BLM’s actions, and failure to take actions, related to RMI’s mining and sale of common variety limestone in a manner that does not comply with federal law. The county is awaiting approval from the court to intervene in the lawsuit.

The budget supplement of $500,000 was approved unanimously, 3-0. “This is a process that we have taken on and our constituents in eastern Garfield County have asked us to,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “We need to move forward.”

The funds may be paid out of the Oil and Gas Mitigation Fund, which, among other things, is intended to mitigate the impact of mineral extraction activities. As Commissioner Jankovsky explained, “These are funds that are not derived from property taxes.