Battlement group asks for HIA reconsideration
The Battlement Concerned Citizens group has formally asked Garfield County commissioners to reconsider their decision to end the health impact assessment related to oil and gas drilling activity in Battlement Mesa.
However, the commissioners are not showing any signs of budging.
“We understand that you don’t want this to be a ‘never-ending’ project,” stated a letter presented by Battlement Concerned Citizens co-chairs Dave Devanney and Paul Light at the May 16 Board of County Commissioners meeting.
In deciding unanimously May 1 to end the study before it became final, the commissioners said they did not want it to become a “never-ending document” due to the continuing stream of conflicting comments and objections over oil and gas drilling.
It was the commissioners’ decision to extend the comment period not once, but twice, that resulted in that situation, the citizens group said.
“Perhaps in hind-sight the decisions to allow two separate 30-day extensions to the original project schedule were a mistake,” the letter noted. “The intent was to ‘get it right,’ however, those extensions have resulted in not only added time and expense, but hundreds of additional pages of documents that not only contradict the content of the HIA but now attack the integrity of one of our state’s most reputable institutions.”
The group was referring to comments disputing input into the study by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
The Battlement group asked that the commissioners include an agenda item for discussion of the HIA at its first meeting in June. Commissioners did not immediately agree to do that, but the group may put its request in writing to be on the June 6 agenda.
Also, now representing Battlement Concerned Citizens as a consultant is former county commissioner Tresi Houpt, through her new business Sustainable Solutions LLC.
“The only persons who should determine the outcome of this study are the public health officials,” Houpt said at the Monday commissioners meeting. “We believe you have an obligation to complete the HIA.”
She added that the commissioners don’t have to agree with the ultimate findings of the study. But that’s not to say the findings shouldn’t be finalized.
Leaving the study in draft form increases the likelihood that its findings could be challenged, she said.
“To agree to do the HIA without finishing it is falling short of your obligation,” Houpt said.
Commissioners Mike Samson and Tom Jankovsky, who defeated Houpt in the November 2010 election, said it was the doctors involved in doing the work who said the study needed to end.
Just because the HIA is in draft form doesn’t mean it doesn’t include information that can be used when Antero Resources submits its drilling plan for Battlement Mesa, they said.
“I’m very comfortable that we will have the opportunity to be able to mitigate water, traffic, dust, noise, lighting and any other issues using this information,” Jankovsky said.
Added Samson, “There is a lot of good, valuable information in there.
“When time comes, if it comes, that draft will be utilized,” he said. “It doesn’t have to be formalized, and canonized for us to use it.”
Antero has not formally applied for drilling in Battlement Mesa. If it does, according to the original zoning and subdivision agreements for the unincorporated community, it will require a special use permit.
Although the commissioners voted not to extend a contract with the Colorado School of Public Health to complete the HIA, the board did recently accept a federal grant to use that same organization to conduct air quality monitoring in Garfield County related to oil and gas activity.
But Samson said the HIA itself had become “a political football.”
“What I see coming down pike is lawsuit after lawsuit after lawsuit with these things,” he said. “It’s an endless game of political one-upmanship.”
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