Expansion of quarry near G’wood has city at ‘war’ | AspenTimes.com

Expansion of quarry near G’wood has city at ‘war’

Thomas Phippen
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
Jeff Peterson, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Citizens Alliance, and Mayor Jonothan Godes speak to members of the media about the possible expansion of the RMR quarry located just north of Glenwood.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent

“We are at war.”

With that statement, Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes made it clear Friday that the city would do everything in its power to prevent the expansion of the limestone quarry north of town.

The proposed expansion of RMR Industrial’s quarry north of Glenwood Springs “is a regional threat,” Godes said.

“This isn’t just a Glenwood Springs issue, this isn’t just a threat to another Colorado mountain town,” Godes said.

The city is committing $1.25 million to fight the quarry expansion, allocating $250,000 in the 2020 budget for the current efforts, and setting aside $1 million in reserve funds to put toward opposition.

But Godes promised to commit any resources necessary to combat RMR’s plans.

“The budget figure for the long haul is whatever it takes,” Godes said.

The city will unveil the “Don’t strip Glenwood” campaign Saturday at the community meeting The Whole Shebang, detailing their efforts to combat the quarry expansion.

The Bureau of Land Management is in the process of starting an environmental review of RMR’s proposed expansion, which seeks to expand the limestone quarry from about 23 acres to 321 acres, and remove millions of tons of rock per year.

“A driving push of that campaign is to get people to support our Citizens Alliance,” which formed in 2018 to oppose any expansion of the quarry, city manager Debra Figueroa said. City Council also will take initiative to “fight to protect our town,” Figueroa said.

Municipalities from Aspen to Rifle have all unanimously passed resolutions opposing the expansion, and supporting Garfield County in RMR’s legal challenge to a county special use permit.

“So many of these people have supported us because local control is still so important to our towns and our communities,” Godes said.

The idea that an out-of-state mining company can set up shop on federal land close to a small community without the say of local authorities should be concerning to everyone in the region, Godes added.

RMR did not respond to requests for comment on this story, but in previous statements have said that they are among the safest mine operators in Colorado, and want to provide economic opportunities for a region “lacking economic diversity.”

Godes said that the region stands to lose around 2,000 jobs if the quarry expansion goes through. The project also could jeopardize the area’s hot springs, which are both culturally significant and crucial to tourism.

RMR’s statement also criticized local leaders for trying to influence politics.

“RMR believes a community should embrace opportunities to improve the lives of its constituents, not just those who can afford to influence local politics,” RMR said in a statement to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent earlier this year.

Those opposed to the quarry are concerned that national political influence will trump local control.

The primary owner of the quarry is Chad Brownstein, “a very privileged individual” according to Citizens Alliance executive director Jeff Peterson. Chad Brownstein is the son of Norm Brownstein of the lobbying firm Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck, where current Interior Secretary David Bernhardt once worked.

In April, RMR hired Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck to lobby in support of the quarry expansion.

“The concern of locals trying to influence politics seems hollow when they’re trying to do it at the national level,” Peterson said.