BLM blocks massive expansion of Colorado quarry

Feb 6, 2024

A limestone quarry located in Colorado with a politically-connected owner won’t be able to expand from 16 to 320 acres, thanks to a recent decision by the Bureau of Land Management. After a three-year study, the BLM concluded the limestone being mined at the Mid-Continent Limestone Quarry—which is located a mile above Glenwood Springs—is not special, and therefore the quarry is not eligible for special perks under the 1872 Mining Law.

The quarry is owned by Chad Brownstein, the son of Norm Brownstein, a politically-connected Colorado attorney whose law firm lobbies for high-profile natural resources and finance companies. When his company, Rocky Mountain Industrials (RMI), first sought approval from the BLM for the quarry expansion, David Bernhardt was secretary of the Interior department, having previously worked for Norm Brownstein’s firm. This is just one of a number of cases in which Bernhardt faced conflicts of interest in his time at Interior related to his lobbying work.

Were the quarry to expand, it would be visible from downtown Glenwood Springs, would result in hundreds of semi-truck trips each day, and could impact the geothermal water flows that feed the town’s hot springs. A group called the Glenwood Springs Citizens’ Alliance formed in 2018 to fight the mine expansion. It sued the BLM in 2020, arguing the agency was not properly regulating mine operations. Findings in that lawsuit were cited by the BLM in its decision to classify the limestone as “common variety,” since it is used for purposes like road base and construction.

Jeff Peterson, the president of the alliance, called the BLM decision “a big setback for RMI and a tremendous step forward for the citizens’ alliance and Glenwood Springs.”

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Quote of the day

As others see the land as just land and dirt, we, the Quechan people, see the land in our DNA… We come from the air, the water, the land. It’s who we are, and protecting these lands preserves our past while safeguarding our future.”

—Fort Yuma Quechan Indian Tribe President Jordan Joaquin, E&E News

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Featured image: Hot springs in Glenwood Springs, Colorado; Jason Cipriani/Flickr