California construction company moves to silence Parleys quarry opposition

Shareholders in Granite Construction claim that the company isn’t following its own environmental standards.

(Leah Hogsten | The Salt Lake Tribune) The area in Parleys Canyon where Granite Construction is proposing to excavate a limestone quarry pictured on July 27, 2022. Shareholders of Granite Construction say the company isn't living up to its own environmental standards.

A group of shareholders claim that the company spearheading a controversial quarry in the Wasatch foothills isn’t living up to its own environmental standards and have submitted a proposal asking Granite Construction, a California-based company, to address their concerns at their upcoming annual shareholders meeting.

Granite says it doesn’t need to listen to those concerns.

Granite Construction has been working with Salt Lake City developer Jesse Lassley to build a 20-acre mine in Parleys Canyon since Jan. 2022. Called the I-80 South Quarry, the project has been met with a deluge of local opposition.

Nearby residents and officials worry that the quarry will worsen air quality, threaten wildlife and jeopardize Parleys Creek — where Salt Lake City gets 20% of its water supply. Locals have also criticized Granite Construction’s lack of engagement with the community.

Granite is still waiting on approval from the Utah Division of Air Quality and Salt Lake County to commence operations. The county has indicated that it won’t grant approval, citing local opposition to the project.

The shareholders’ proposal, filed in January, echoes these concerns. They claim that the quarry’s potential to “expose nearby communities to toxic fugitive dust, excavate up to 634 acres of forest land, and displace the known presence of elk, moose, black bear, mountain lion, golden eagle, and other species” is a substantial business risk.

In a 2022 presentation about its sustainability goals, Granite expressed its intent to “protect water resources in all areas of our influence; reduce air emissions at all plants, to the extent practicable, to industry-leading levels; protect and enhance biodiversity within our sphere of influence.”

“The proposal is a worthwhile attempt to get people who say they are committed to principles about the environment to stand by them,” said Spencer Shaver, executive director of Save Our Canyons, a local nonprofit dedicated to preserving the Wasatch’s natural resources, of the shareholders’ effort.

In February, Granite Construction asked the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission to allow the company to exclude the shareholders’ proposal, meaning that it would not be discussed at their annual shareholders’ meeting.

The SEC has not yet made a decision.

In a report responding to the shareholders, Granite’s board of directors argued that the company has already addressed their concerns and that the I-80 South Quarry project aligns with the company’s environmental and community engagement goals.

“This project will serve Utahns for years to come,” said Erin Kuhlman, Granite Construction’s chief marketing and communications offer, in a statement to The Salt Lake Tribune, “and Granite is dedicated to operating with industry-leading practices that protect the environment and match what citizens of the ‘best-managed state’ have come to expect in their businesses.”

As You Sow, a shareholder advocacy nonprofit, filed the proposal on behalf of Granite shareholders.

“Shareholders are concerned and don’t believe that the company is setting itself up well, either on this project or future projects,” said Danielle Fugere, As You Sow’s president and chief counsel.

Granite contends that Salt Lake City needs the quarry for construction aggregate materials, like gravel, to sustain population growth on the Wasatch front. The company argues that failing to construct a local source of aggregates would lead to importing the materials from other states, increasing emissions and fuel usage as they are trucked into Utah.

During the 2024 Legislative session, quarry critics worried that proposed mining legislation would greenlight the project, though the bill ultimately did not pass.

Granite Construction Company donated $1,500 to the House Leadership Political Action Committee in 2023, according to public disclosure forms. The company donated $5,500 to the Utah Republican Senate Campaign Committee and $5,000 to the Utah House Republican Election Committee in 2022. Disclosure forms have not been released for 2024.