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Mining contract extension upsets Boulder County residents

Opponents of the agreement say this deal between the county and Cemex should have had the Town of Lyons at the table, and worry about another decade of pollution.

BOULDER COUNTY, Colo. — “This right here is my backyard, this is my hayfield," Sarah Lorang said, pointing to her property in unincorporated Boulder County just outside of the Town of Lyons.

Lorang moved there with her husband and two kids last year, and when they moved, they knew exactly who the Environmental Protection Agency said their next door neighbors were. 

"The southern fence line is actually the fence we share with Cemex," she said. "They’re the biggest polluter in Boulder County. They emit over 357,000 tons of carbon a year.  They make up almost 7% of the entire county’s emissions." 

But the family of four moved there anyway, knowing the cement plant's mining permit with Boulder County expired at the end of September. 

“We did very extensive due diligence, and we knew that with the expiration of the mine, we know that there are a lot of implications to the plant, both legal and financial. And we knew that the plant wouldn’t be able to survive once the mine is closed," Lorang said. 

A media representative with Cemex did not respond to a 9News email asking for comment on Tuesday morning. 

Lorang would not have moved to the new home had she known the mining operations at Dowe Flats across Highway 66 could be extended for another 15 years. 

"I’d love to get the information out there that our department has not taken a position on this," said Janis Whisman, the Real Estate Division Manager for Boulder County Parks and Open Space. 

Whisman did, however, help negotiate an agreement with Cemex. In exchange for hundreds of acres of open space for free, the company would be able to mine until 2037. After that they said they would demolish the plant. 

"We as county representatives wanted to focus on closure of the plant because we knew that was important to the public," Whisman said. "Wo we focused on that, and the 15 year timeframe was the smallest timeframe that Cemex would agree to." 

Whisman's job is to buy more open space, and she said it is not her job to decide if the agreement is right or wrong, or to involve other parties in the proposals. 

"If I were to sell you my house I don’t think I’d want my neighbor involved in the negotiation about the price for my house, so that’s the same kind of negotiation that we’re doing,"  said Whisman. "We’re just doing it for open space with sellers of land that is suitable for open space." 

The Mayor of Lyons believes this particular open space agreement was different, because the extension impacts when and how they can access certain land. 

“The town of Lyons was not a participant in these negotiations," Mayor Hollie Rogin said. "We were purposefully excluded, and our contention is we should have been, and we should be. And the county commissioners should deny this application and re-open negotiations with the town of Lyons at the table." 

“This is the epitome of thinking globally and acting locally," Lorang said. 

A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at 2PM and Boulder County Commissioners could vote on the agreement. 

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