Rural Conservation Alliance News Scroll or Jump to Up-date: July 21, 2005 (good NM Supreme Court decision!)
This site contains some documents in the public domain, some text and photos showing history of a suspended rock crushing operation, Cerrillos Gravel Products (CGP) located in the Cerrillos Hills. Recent court decisions lend affirmation to no further mining in this unsuitable location and that progress will be made towards reclamation.
The history of this operation shows there were problems in compliance with laws and was very hard upon the communities, the Hills, and caused much conflict. As the attorney for the Rural Conservation Alliance (RCA), Mary Humphrey, wrote in a June 8th, 2002 brief: "By late 1999, Appellant [CGP] had not complied with many of the conditions of its permit. This included failure to make required submittals for its reclamation plan as well as mining outside the 3 acre limit. ... The County also had received numerous complaints from local citizens about non-compliance with hours of operation and placing protective tarps over loads." And, "In early 2000, the [County] Land Use staff requested that the BCC [County Commission] suspend Appellant CGP's permit based on its failure to comply with the conditions of its permit." A County Commission hearing was held January 25, 2000 with the result that a Memorandum of Understanding ("MOU") was approved. "Although Appellant's agent, Greg Upton, indicated he thought Appellant would agree, it did not." They would not sign the MOU and instead appealed to District Court. District court agreed with Cerrillos Gravel, but then the Court of Appeals overturned that decision and held that "the County had the authority to suspend the mining permit. CGP then appealed to the New Mexico State Supreme Court. See the "news" below.
Hundred of gravel trucks a day exposed Los Cerrillos residents to toxic diesel and dust.
Dusty view towards the entrance to the Cerrillos Hills Historic Park, when gravel trucks were running.
--Photos, 1999, thanks to Bill Gillespie
NEWS July 21, 2005:
THE NM STATE SUPREME COURT RULED that Santa Fe county had the right to suspend Cerrillos Gravel Product's mining operation. That's good!
Cerrillos Gravel Product (CGP)
The Rural Conservation Alliance & Santa Fe County
before the NM State Supreme court
A decision by the five Supreme Court Justices has been announced that supports the RCA's and the County's arguments that "[a]pplicable statutes grant the County authority to enact ordinances that provide for suspension or revocation of a land development permit."
READ the OPINION OF THE COURT
Some Background information:
GRAVEL MINE WILL REMAIN SUSPENDED: The May 25, 2004 Court of Appeals opinion had upheld Santa Fe County's decision to suspend Cerrillos Gravel's rock crushing operation adjacent to the Cerrillos Hills Historic Park. The Court of Appeals reversed a District Court decision, finding that the County had (& has) the authority to suspend CGP's permit.
Since year 2000, Santa Fe County had suspended Cerrillos Gravel's and Associated Asphalt's gravel operation for violations of their permit (including mining outside of a 3 acre zone and lack of water rights). This is a reason all those 100s of gravel trucks (18 wheelers loaded with crushed rock from the Cerrillos Hills) have not been running on the Turquoise Trail and through Los Cerrillos. CGP had appealed to District Court and the case fell to Governor Johnson's temporarily appointed judge, Margaret Kegel. She ruled in November of 2002 that the County Commission does not have the authority to suspend CGP's mining permit [even for CGP's failure to abide by permit conditions]. In her words: "The County, when confronted with violations, pursuant to the statute, may pursue relief in District Court, such as seeking an injunction or abatement." The RCA & Santa Fe County, of course, appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals which, not surprisingly, reversed the district court's decision. To: excerpts of the Court of Appeals Order.
2) CGP is also suing Santa Fe County (as the New Mexican reported it on 1-4-03) "for damages, arguing that the county 'illegally' shut down the operation.". Since the Court of Appeals has ruled that the county acted legally, we expect this case to be dismissed. This suit was being directed to Federal Court but the Federal Court dismissed all federal claims for lack of ripeness and remanded the case to state court. When we hear any news on this, we will post.
3) Water rights issues from 2000-2 (posted May 2003):
Regarding the attempted use of a domestic (3 acre feet) well by CGP for industrial purposes, after several years of the RCA questioning such water usage through the courts, the Office of the State Engineer (OSE) finally granted CGP permission to use a portion (1.39 acre feet) of the 3-acre feet allocation for use beyond domestic purposes. This allocation was limited to a year. It seemed ludicrous that CGP would ever claim to the County that 1.39 acre-feet would provide "sufficient water for at least 4 years of mining at full production". The County, to their credit, and for other good reasons, declined to grant CGP's inappropriate request to resume mining.
(Reports from the Past: Water Rights Application Protests--for historians and the curious)
August 8, 2002: Good news! CGP has withdrawn their application for water rights--so there will be no hearings on this matter. We are confident that the magnitude of our broad based opposition and the good case we had, was the reason for the withdrawal. This evidently occurred after our (RCA) attorney, Mary Humphrey, had made the motion to join most of the 37 protestants into one party. We speculate that CGP may look for water rights to transfer. But since there would be legal problems involved, Mary intends to help keep an eye out for such an attempt. Again, the 2 year old CGP application (No. RG - 24629) for acquisition of 3 acre feet of water rights for industrial use has be withdrawn.
Thanks to everyone who has helped bring about this successful protest! This process has helped strengthen and focus us to make us all the more prepared for any expected future developments.
Background to this case: CGP had during the summer of 2002, requested a hearing before the State Engineer (SE) on their 2 year old application for acquisition of 3 acre feet of water rights for industrial use--note that this is the same case that the water associations and many citizens protested (37 protestants) in 2000. When there are protests of such applications, it is up to the applicant to call for a hearing within 2 years or the State Engineer will toss out the application.
The RCA held the opinion that any granting of this application would have been contrary to the conservation of water in the Cerrillos area--an area already fully appropriated and located near the lower end of a water basin (the Galisteo). The RCA shares the opinion that special care should be taken when an applicant's own record calls into question the honesty or validity of their intentions as well as their worthiness to use such limited resources. The RCA noted that the applicant had been freely taking and illegally using as much water as they wished for years under the same ostensible uses: reclamation and dust control & with doubtful results. Again, the real reason for their request, we think, is not for the intended uses of reclamation and dust control, but rather was an attempt to merely satisfy legal requirements so that they might attempt to resume mining.
Note that this was CGP's original application--not a later one where they attempted to make a domestic well partly industrial. The RCA attorney successfully caught the illegalities of that attempt (See: Judge Rules in 2001).
~ To CGP mine reclamation home page Cerrillos Sand and Gravel-Beginnings and Endings -- Historic "Cerrillos Mining District" --
A New Mexico "Cultural Property"--not a mine zone
New: La Bajada Mesa Strip Mine Application, 2005
To: New Mexico Heritage Preservation Alliance, Most Endangered--La Bajada Mesa and Escarpment
Page Updated Oct., 2005