Battlement Mesa residents want 1,000-foot gas well setback | PostIndependent.com
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Battlement Mesa residents want 1,000-foot gas well setback

John Colson
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

Residents of Battlement Mesa believe that gas wells, if they ever are drilled in the community, should be no closer than 1,000 feet from the nearest home, domestic water wells or the Colorado River.

But the state of Colorado believes that wells can be drilled and operated as close as 150 feet from a home without endangering the residents.

And therein lies one of many sources of conflict growing out of Antero Resources’ plans to drill up to 200 gas wells within Battlement Mesa. The community covers roughly 400 acres and is home to some 5,000 people in unincorporated western Garfield County, across the Colorado River from the town of Parachute.



The topic was one of many raised at a July 8 meeting of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission at Battlement Mesa. At that meeting, two members of the commission were present but did not speak, leaving it to staff members to explain the COGCC’s methods and policies.

Dave Neslin, executive director of the COGCC, said that there is nowhere in Colorado where the density of wells exceeds one per 10 acres, although Antero’s plans call for a density of up to approximately one well per two acres.



A number of residents were upset about the impending proximity of wells to their homes.

Dick Buchan, for example, noted that a well would be situated about 100 feet down a steep hill from his home, which he said is covered with cheat grass, dry pinon bushes and other potential fuel. He said the pad would pose a significant fire danger should a spark or explosion occur there.

Neslin said the rules used by the COGCC to review drilling plans deal with fire hazards through the 150-foot setback, and restrictions on equipment that can be used at the well site. He also said the commission consults with a variety of state agencies on such issues.

But some of those in Battlement Mesa want the setback rule changed.

“We want it to be 1,000 feet,” declared Paul Light, a board member of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.

The 150-foot distance, he said, is “not appropriate in a fairly densely populated area” such as Battlement Mesa.

“We’re not trying to change the rules for the whole state,” Light said. “We’re saying we need these rules for our particular situation.”

He said a formal request for the new setback has yet to be submitted to the COGCC, and that the request likely will not come until after Antero has submitted its “comprehensive drilling plan” for the commission’s review. That plan is to establish a framework for the gas company’s activities, including consideration of the impacts of those activities on residents.

According to Light, the 1,000-foot distance is not based on any particular scientific data, although he believes that a study by Dr. Russell Walker of Mesa State College, who teaches environmental science, supports the basic premise.

Walker’s study, said the GVCA’s secretary, Joyce Wizer, essentially shows that “the further away you get, the lower your exposure to VOCs.” VOCs are volatile organic compounds, some of which are known carcinogens and are generated in gas well production.

So, she reasoned, Walker’s findings generally support the idea that the closer the wells are placed to homes, the greater the hazard to the residents.

She said Walker will be speaking to the GVCA, and anyone else who cares to attend, on Aug. 2, 3-5 p.m., at the Battlement Mesa Activity Center.

jcolson@postindependent.com


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