A controversial quarry planned in Parleys Canyon is fueling tensions between lawmakers and Salt Lake County officials over how to regulate aggregate mining, an industry that has taken a clear toll on the vistas and airsheds along the Wasatch Front demands.
The Division of Oil, Gas and Mining (DOGM) is under pressure from lawmakers to urgently grant a permit for the proposed I-80 South Quarry, potentially allowing Granite Construction Co. to do so, despite significant objections from Salt Lake in the coming ones Weeks to begin dismantling county and township officials, who view the project as a public health threat and a watershed for 360,000 people.
“The water in the Mountain Dell and Little Dell reservoirs would be open to dust deposits that would affect water quality because they are in close proximity to the proposed mine site,” Laura Briefer, director of Salt Lake City public utilities, wrote in a filed statement Tuesday with DOGM. “Furthermore, fugitive dust that settles in the Wasatch Mountains during winter will accelerate snow melt.”
Darkening snowpack means dust deposits melt earlier, leaving less water available when water demand is highest in summer.
In recent years, Utah developer Jesse Lassley has acquired several hundred acres and a partial interest in an existing quarry in Parleys Canyon, trading as Tree Farm LLC. Last year, Tree Farm quietly filed a notice with DOGM to begin a large-scale mining operation that would include a pit that would grow to as much as 400 acres over time.
In the face of strong opposition, led by Salt Lake County Mayor Jenny Wilson, this notice was withdrawn. But last month Granite, a global aggregates producer that is acting as a partner to Tree Farm, filed a new filing for a largely undefined 20-acre quarry that qualifies for a much less stringent review as a “small-scale mine operation” under Utah law .
That means DOGM’s only job at this stage is to determine if the application is complete and the bond posted is sufficient to cover reclamation costs, according to the Republican lawmaker, who is urging DOGM Director John Baza on his to remain on the regulatory path and act expeditiously in permitting the mine .
On June 16, the day after Granite filed its Small Mines Notice, Baza and Chris Hansen, Chairman of the Board of Oil, Gas and Mining, were called before the Legislature’s Regulatory Review and General Oversight Committee and gave a presentation on the limits of the authority of the agency.
Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, was dissatisfied that DOGM had signaled that it would tie its permit for the quarry to permits from the Utah Department of Environmental Quality.
Regulators agreed that they should not interfere with the work of a sister agency, but noted that the mine is near Utah’s largest urban area and stiff opposition suggests this project warrants additional consideration, to ensure that the public interest is protected.
But current state law may not allow this. Bramble argued that DOGM was setting up a “Catch-22” for quarry advocates.
“How on earth if you don’t know the scope of the mine, DEQ or some other agency could approve an application that didn’t define the scope, but that approval is required before that scope can be defined or approved? ” Bramble posed. “How could that ever be kept?”
According to the Mine Permit Rules Legislature, DOGM’s permit should be issued by Thursday, or 15 days after the small-scale mine notification was deemed complete. But on Thursday, the Department of Natural Resources, DOGM’s parent agency, said state law allows 30 days, so no approval is forthcoming.
Last week, Granite’s announcement prompted objections from Salt Lake County, Salt Lake City, Millcreek, Save Our Canyons and a neighboring property owner, all of whom requested a hearing for DOGM to consider their concerns before proceeding.
The objections argue that Granite and Tree Farm aim to bypass public involvement in DOGM’s decision and begin mining on July 16 before obtaining necessary regulatory approvals.
Millcreek’s concerns relate primarily to dust that would likely be blown into the neighborhood at the mouth of the gorge.
“These residents have been affected by fugitive dust emissions from existing quarry operations just across I-80 from the location described in Granite’s Small Mine [notice]says the Millcreek objection. “This facility has been reported by the Utah Division of Air Quality for excessive dust generation and other air quality violations. Dust from the existing quarry contributes to poor air quality in the Salt Lake Valley by introducing particulate matter and also creating nuisance dust on cars, windows, porches, patios and driveways in the Canyon Rim and beyond.”
The various objections also insist that Granite’s proposal should be reviewed under the stricter rules for large mines before excavation begins. Officials have argued that Tree Farm’s true intent is to develop a giant pit, but it seeks to circumvent those rules by exploiting a regulatory loophole reserved for mines under 20 acres.
Salt Lake County officials made it clear that they would take legal action to block the mine if it received state approval because it would be in a protected foothill zone where new mines are no longer permitted under a recently passed zoning ordinance allowed are.
In a statement filed Tuesday, County Deputy Mayor Catherine Kanter said Granite and Tree Farm is required to comply with the county’s land use and other relevant ordinances and is yet to file any applications regarding the mine.
In a recent lawsuit against the county, Tree Farm claimed the county does not have jurisdiction over the project due to a recent law that limits the role of local governments in regulating overall operations. Kanter insisted that counties still have jurisdiction over new mines.
“Even if the use proposed by Tree Farm and Granite were permitted by county law, there would still be multiple land use permits and environmental regulations [they] satisfied,” she wrote. “This includes, but is not limited to, completing the requirements for a revegetation and reclamation plan, site plan, slope protection, subgrade, site access, geotechnical analysis, stream protection, wildlife protection, and traffic studies.”
Kanter noted that Granite’s announcement does not include a reclamation plan or mine operations plan.
Meanwhile, DEQ has already issued a stormwater discharge permit for the project, but an air quality permit has yet to be issued, according to agency spokesman Matt McPherson.
If certain limit values are exceeded and if the system is operated for more than 180 days a year, a permit from the Air Pollution Control Department is required. Such an order requires a 30-day public comment period.
According to McPherson, Granite requested a concession order allowing “temporary” operations, but the division turned it down because the proposed operations are not temporary.
https://www.sltrib.com/news/environment/2022/07/02/under-pressure-lawmakers-utah/ Under pressure from legislators, Utah Mining Authorities are considering permitting the Parleys Canyon Quarry