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A photo of Rocky Mountain Industrials' limestone quarry above Glenwood Springs after the January 18 rockslide. (Courtesy Glenwood Springs Citizens' Alliance)

Garfield County has the right to regulate and impose restrictions on Rocky Mountain Industrials’ Mid-Continent limestone quarry just above the city of Glenwood Springs.

The Colorado Court of Appeals ruling on Feb. 16 upheld a 2019 notice of violation issued by the county. The original special-use permit issued by Garfield County for the quarry detailed seasonal restrictions on operations from Dec. 15 to April 15 to prevent the disruption of wintering local wildlife.

Garfield County issued a notice of violation against the mine and its owner in 2019 when members of the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance reported that the company was operating beyond the 16-acre boundary set out in the county’s special-use permit. Rocky Mountain Industrials, which is pursuing a controversial expansion of its mining operation with the Bureau of Land Management, sued in response, claiming that the mine fell under state or federal jurisdiction and Garfield County had no right to regulate their operations.

Rocky Mountain Industrials lost the suit in 2021, and has now lost its appeal.

The citizens’ alliance has been fighting Rocky Mountain Industrials expansion plan since 2019. Alliance president Jeff Peterson said he hopes the county enforces the notice of violation soon and brings RMI back into compliance. The citizens’ alliance has watched RMI operate for years outside their permit, he said.

“Certainly we feel it’s a benefit for the community and a big win for Garfield County, affirming their ability to enforce reasonable environmental regulations on federal land that’s within their jurisdiction,” Peterson said.

The Colorado Sun reached out to RMI for comment, but the company did not respond. 

In January a huge rock slide buried the Mid-Continent mine and drew attention once again to the operation and its controversial proposed expansion. No one was injured, and federal mine regulators issued a cease-and-desist order to the mine operator in response.

Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said the community appreciates that the appellate court supports local regulation of industrial operations next to their communities.

“The city will continue to act to protect its economic interests in ensuring that mining impacts do not undermine its well-established tourism-based economy. RMI has shown that they cannot safely strip mine their existing 12-acre lease without a massive slope failure,” Godes said. “Are we supposed to trust them to not wreak havoc on an expanded permit area of 447 acres?” 

Peterson said the citizens’ group is encouraged by the recent ruling and the support it has received from the local community. The appellate decision isn’t going to be the end of its dealings with RMI, however. The BLM will soon make a decision on whether or not to approve RMI’s operating plan.

“It’s been a long, drawn out process, but by no means is it over,” Peterson said. “We’ll just have to continue to monitor it, to see where it goes.”

CLARIFICATION: This story was updated Feb. 23, 2023, to clarify that Citizens’ Alliance President Jeff Peterson hopes Garfield County will enforce the notice of violation.

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