District court confirms Garfield County’s authority to regulate limestone quarry

February 8, 2021

The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) obtained a significant victory in its litigation against Rocky Mountain Industrials, Inc. and RMR Aggregates, Inc. (collectively, “RMI”).

On January 31, 2021, in District Court in Garfield County, Ninth Judicial District Judge Anne Norrdin rejected legal claims made by RMI that the BOCC lacked the authority to regulate certain aspects of RMI’s Mid-Continent Quarry located outside of Glenwood Springs. In doing so, the court rebuffed RMI’s claims that state and federal law preempted the board’s authority. The court explained that the permissible exercise of land use authority by Garfield County is broad and includes, among other things, “regulating development and activities in hazardous areas; protecting land from activities that would damage wildlife habitat; enacting regulations to provide for the orderly use of land and the protection of the environment in a manner consistent with constitutional rights; and regulating the location of building or other structures.” The court further confirmed that the BOCC may enforce “a reasonable environmental regulation” on RMI’s operations, because such regulations are “within the local powers contemplated by the applicable federal statutes.”

The Board of County Commissioners is reviewing the court’s decision and evaluating next steps. While litigation with RMI remains ongoing, the court’s decision marks a significant and positive step towards resolution.
“This court order addresses three important issues for the citizens of Garfield County; the size or footprint of the operation, not operating during winter months, and road improvements,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky. “RMI needs to come into compliance with their conditions of approval.”

Included in the 57-page order is confirmation that Garfield County has the ability to impose winter regulations and environmental conditions at the site. The decision also confirms that a road maintenance agreement entered into by RMI’s predecessor regarding Transfer Trail, which connects Glenwood Springs and the mine, does apply to RMI.