The city of Glenwood Springs is currently in the fight of its life against some of the most powerful and connected people in the country who in their single-minded pursuit of wealth want to forever alter the nature of our community.
In case you’ve missed the stories in recent months, a mining company named Rocky Mountain Resources (RMR) is proposing to expand the 16-acre Mid-Continent Limestone Quarry to nearly 500 acres on federal lands a half-mile from the heart of Glenwood Springs. The expansion, if approved by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), would provide materials to fuel growth on the Front Range.
The impacts of the strip mine on the regional economy, the surrounding environment and our way of life will be profound. Mine operations will expand to 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, including blasting seven days a week. The mine operator, RMR, estimates as many as 500 trucks a day will carry crushed limestone from the quarry through the city to a continuously idling diesel train for transport to Denver. The currently permitted daylight hours of operation and winter closure of the mine to protect wildlife will be a distant memory.
The mine itself will be an open-pit operation that will eventually remove an entire mountainside that is visible from nearly all of Glenwood Springs and is home to numerous wildlife species. The drilling and excavating will impact the caves that Glenwood is known for and put at risk the hot springs aquifer that feeds the Iron Mountain Hot Springs and historic Glenwood Hot Springs pools.
An expanded quarry threatens our $500 million retail and recreation economy that employs 2,000 people. RMR says they will employ between 30 and 100 people with high-paying jobs. No thanks. Our economy is built on local, family-owned businesses and thriving professional services that will suffer if Glenwood Springs becomes a less desirable place to visit.
It will generate dust and light pollution, impacting the health and quality of life of the people who live, work and recreate in Glenwood Springs.
RMR’s corporate headquarters are in Beverly Hills and is owned by Chad Brownstein and Greg Dangler. Chad Brownstein is the son of Norm Brownstein, one of the nation’s most powerful lobbyists and the former employer of Secretary of the Interior David Bernhardt. The BLM is under the Interior Department, so Bernhardt has ultimate authority over whether the mine is approved or denied. Of course, Brownstein and Dangler have hired Chad’s dad’s firm — Brownstein Hyatt Farber Schreck — to do their bidding in Washington, D.C. SEC disclosures reveal they have paid millions to the Brownstein law firm.
I started this column with that basic information, because it is important to understand the scope of the fight we are facing and the different stakes involved. Essentially, two very well connected and privileged out-of-towners are trying to irrecoverably alter the very nature of Glenwood Springs and the surrounding region for their personal profit.
Unfortunately, the Aspen Daily News recently published an article that implies the stakes are the same for both sides, and we are both behaving in the same way. This is objectively a false equivocation. We are fighting for our soul. Dangler and Chad Brownstein are fighting to make sure investors keep paying the $495,000 in annual compensation each receives, and their future payout on stock options.
In the article, Dangler, RMR’s CEO, asserts that Glenwood Springs officials aren’t willing to meet about the mine. This simply isn’t true. While the reporter did quote our objections to his assertion, it’s important to point out that there have been more than two dozen interactions between the city and RMR over the last two years.
RMR attorneys and lobbyists on numerous occasions personally contacted individual city council members and asked to meet privately without our legal counsel present. Good government does not happen in back rooms. Unfortunately, RMR steadfastly refuses our open offer to meet in public. The company even backed out of a July 2019 public meeting before city council that included a ban on public comment to protect RMR’s executive’s feelings.
From their offices in Beverly Hills and Denver, Brownstein and his partners are trying to reshape the future of our community and region. Meanwhile, City Councilman Rick Voorhees looks out his window to neighbors in his council district who will see their property values plummet once the mine expands.
RMR has directly told us that they have the money and power to make the mine happen. Their lobbyists work the halls of Washington and Denver for the benefit of the privileged son of Norm Brownstein with a reckless disregard to the devastation it would cause.
Here in Glenwood, we are fighting at ground zero for our way of life. It is not hyperbole to say we are at war to save the very heart and soul of our community.
Jonathan Godes is the mayor of Glenwood Springs.