Battlement Mesa HIA comment window extended |

Battlement Mesa HIA comment window extended

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

County and public health officials on Monday agreed to provide an extra month for comments on the recently released Health Impact Assessment of the Battlement Mesa community.

But not all observers concur that the extra time should be granted, and two area organizations questioned the reasons for the extensions requested by representatives of the oil and gas industry.

The HIA, conducted by Garfield County and the Colorado School of Public Health, was released to the public on Oct. 4 and initially was to be available for public comment until Oct. 20.

But following requests from the Williams Production gas drilling company and the Western Slope office of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, an industry organization, the board of county commissioners agreed on Monday to extend that comment period until Nov. 15.

The extension will not only give the industry’s experts more time to analyze the document, but it will provide ample time for a “peer review” by other interested parties, including the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.

“I think it’s good to take as much time as we need” gathering input from various sources, said Commissioner John Martin.

Officials generally agreed that the extension of the comment period would not pose problems for the study, and might enhance its credibility.

But some at the meeting warned that the study, while intended to focus narrowly on issues related to the Battlement Mesa situation, might end up being used for broader purposes.

“For us, the scope is narrow, but the political implications … extend beyond the stated purpose,” said David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope office of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association.

Ludlam was one of the industry representatives who asked for the extension of the comment period, as well as a peer review of its findings.

But when asked by Martin to suggest the names of potential “peers,” Ludlam replied, “We probably wouldn’t be the best source of recommendations,” citing a letter written by residents unhappy with the requests for delay.

That letter, from members of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA) and the Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC), questioned the need for an extension, arguing that it would “disrupt the timely completion of this project and further delay the start of” a second phase of health monitoring work.

“All stakeholders were aware long ago what the time frame for review was to be, and had ample time to prepare for it,” the letter continues. “All parties have been provided equal opportunity to participate … and we feel that granting a special request of any stakeholder would unfairly give that stakeholder preferential treatment.”

The letter termed the gas industry as “perhaps the most well-financed and well-equipped stakeholder in terms of resources and personnel to respond to the HIA,” and that the 30-day comment period should be “adequate for all involved stakeholders.”

The letter was signed by Leslie Robinson of the GVCA, and by Dave Devanney and Ron Galterio of the BCC.

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