RMR strip mine has high-level DC connections

View of proposed RMR strip mine from Glenwood Springs Adventure Park

Will new interior secretary and Rifle native sell out Glenwood Springs?

A recent feature article in The Colorado Sun sheds new light on many of the unanswered questions surrounding RMR’s plans for a strip mine in Glenwood Springs. Besides being adjacent to Glenwood’s popular tourist attraction, Caverns Adventure Park, the quarry plan just doesn’t add up.

The RMR website says the company “maintains relationships with key policy influencers to enable its projects to be current on all critical path permitting and sustain environmentally responsible operations.”

Those relationships worry opponents of the expansion. Namely, RMR’s chief executive is Chad Brownstein, son of Norm Brownstein, who serves as chairman of the Denver’s influential law and lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck. The country’s new Secretary of the Interior, David Bernhardt, is a Rifle native who served as a lobbyist for Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck’s oil and mining clients.

In his first week as secretary, the Interior Department opened an ethics investigations into Bernhardt. Three New York Times investigations suggest Bernhardt used his position as the Interior Department’s deputy secretary to advance a policy pushed by a former lobbying client.

This month the Washington Post reported that Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck harvested record revenues from clients hoping to influence Interior Department policy after Bernhardt left the firm in 2017 to join the Trump Administration as deputy secretary of the department.

The fear is that the Mid-Continent Quarry expansion plan could land on Bernhardt’s desk.

“I think that’s a valid concern,” said former Colorado state Rep. Gregg Rippy.

Rippy was born and raised in Glenwood Springs. He served as Colorado state representative from 2000-04 and owns a construction company that relies on a steady supply of aggregate.

“I have mixed feelings on this one,” Rippy said. “I’m in the aggregate business and I can say this is the wrong place for this project.”

Rippy shares the concerns of his fellow Glenwood Springs residents. The trucks, the trains, the scar, the potential injury to the town’s vibrant tourism business. He expects the BLM will opt for the more intensive Environmental Impact Statement review over the Environmental Assessment.

He wonders if the final decision on this expansion might wind up not in the BLM’s Colorado River Valley Field Office but in Washington D.C. He, too, has concerns about RMR’s relationships in the highest halls of power.

But mostly, Rippy is curious about the business plan. If RMR plans to ship all its crushed stone more than 150 miles to the Front Range, beneath the Continental Divide, the company’s income dwindles, he said.

“The aggregate piece of it doesn’t make economic sense to me. When your transportation costs in all likelihood exceed the value of your product at the pit, it makes you wonder,” Rippy said. “This is not a mining company. This is not someone who is in the extractive industry. This has a lot of us scratching our heads wondering ‘There’s got to be something we don’t know here’” …

Read the full article: 
The politically connected owner of a Glenwood Springs quarry wants a massive expansion. Residents are preparing for a fight.

RMR’s application must be really bad if they can’t even get the BLM to approve their application. It was rejected again — for the second time.

Read the full article:
BLM returns RMR’s quarry application a second time

Here’s what happened at the GarCo BOCC meeting Monday night

Garfield commissioners give quarry operators deadline to straighten up

The Garfield County Board of County Commissioners voted unanimously Monday night to give Rocky Mountain Resources until June 1 to come into compliance with its county special use permit, or face further legal action.

After a nearly three-hour public hearing, the time clock was set for the controversial quarry operation — currently proposed for a major expansion — to meet its existing obligations.

Nearly 200 people attended the meeting, held at Glenwood Springs Middle School to accommodate the crowd. County planning staff members presented their findings that RMR was in violation of five out of seven alleged violations.

The allegations were made in November after a complaint from the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance, a group best known for their opposition to RMR’s proposal with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) to expand operations.

Commissioners agreed with staff that RMR stands in violation of the county’s special use permit in five areas out of the seven allegations. Those include:

  • RMR confirmed it was selling limestone for road base, boulders and other construction materials, when their permit specifically authorizes extraction of only chemical-grade limestone dust.
  • The quarry operated between Dec. 15 and April 15 the past two years, despite the special use permit prohibition on extraction during those months.
  • RMR is operating on 20.8 acres of BLM land, when the county permit authorizes only 16.3 acres.
  • RMR failed to keep noise on Transfer Trail low, and did not implement communication with Glenwood Caverns traffic as stipulated in the permit’s maintenance agreement.
  • RMR conducted exploratory drilling, with a BLM permit, which was not part of the county’s special use permit.

“It’s a slower process than we’d like, but we’ll get there,” Jeff Peterson, an active member of Citizens’ Alliance, said after the commissioner’s decision …

More info:

Information about the BOCC meeting on March 25 that prompted public review

RMR’s violations of county permit

Garfield County to hold public review of quarry operator’s current violations

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