BLM to conduct full EIS for proposed Glenwood Springs quarry expansion
Glenwood Springs Post Independent
The Bureau of Land Management has decided to complete the more extensive environmental impact statement (EIS) for the proposed Mid-Continent Quarry expansion near Glenwood Springs, the federal land agency announced Monday.
The BLM released the complete proposal for the quarry expansion being put forth by operators RMR Industrials after reviewing the plan for completeness for a third time.
This means that BLM can begin scheduling public hearings, and work on several studies that have to be completed before a final decision is reached.
RMR’s complete, 260-page proposed expansion plan is available online.
This is the third draft of the proposal RMR has submitted, after the BLM sent back proposals in December and April.
“I guess it’s no surprise, since they’re not a mining company, that it took them three shots,” Glenwood Springs Mayor Jonathan Godes said. “Now that they have the box checked, the rubber is going to really meet the road with the NEPA process.”
The BLM decided to do an EIS, instead of the less intensive environmental assessment, due to the significant impact of the proposed expansion, said David Boyd, spokesman for the Colorado River Valley Field Office.
Standard project review under the National Environmental Protection Act can start with an environmental assessment first, and upgrade to the EIS if the government doesn’t reach a “finding of no significant impact,” Boyd said.
“On larger projects that we know will have significant impacts, we go ahead and do an EIS,” Boyd explained.
Added Godes, “We are very pleased that our calls for due process on this application have been heeded by the BLM. We have been calling for the EIS process, as well as the separate NEPA effort for the existing operation, for over a year now.”
The final plan generally follows previous drafts. RMR wants to expand from 15.7 permitted acres to 447 acres. The quarry is currently operating on more than 20 acres. The road to the quarry from Transfer Trail across BLM land accounts for about 9 of the permitted acres, RMR notes in their proposal.
RMR also seeks to operate the quarry 24 hours a day, with crushing and hauling happening between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m., and blasting occurring between 9 a.m. and 4 p.m. Currently, RMR is supposed to cease operations from Dec. 15 to April 15, but under the new proposal it seeks to operate year-round.
RMR’s goal is to remove 5 million tons of rock from the quarry per year for about 20 years.
Before the environmental review gets underway, the BLM needs several scientific studies and cultural surveys.
The first official public comment period is “months away,” the BLM noted in a fact sheet that accompanied the latest decision. The BLM expects to hold public meetings in the late spring or summer of 2020.
Jeff Peterson, executive director of the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance, which formed in opposition to the mine expansion, also applauded the BLM’s decision to conduct a full EIS.
“We remain certain that, at any scale, this is still the wrong project in the wrong place,” Peterson said in a prepared statement. “The negative consequences for our community, our economy and our environment remain insurmountable.
“… In planning for an EIS process, it’s clear that BLM has heard the concern raised by residents of our community about the threats this project presents.”
The BLM is also working to determine which mining law applies to the quarry operations. High-quality or chemical grade limestone is considered differently than limestone used for road base and other uses. Chemical limestone has specific uses, most often to suppress dust in coal mines.
The lower grade limestone falls under a different system. Removing lower grade limestone rocks from public lands can come with a fee.
The BLM is working on a mineral examination to determine which category of laws RMR’s operations will fall under. That process is expected to take about a year.
In the meantime, “RMR is establishing an escrow account that will cover the appraised value of any minerals removed pending completion of the mineral examination, including past production,” according to the BLM fact sheet.