COGCC approves 2nd Battlement well pad
Almost 10 months after first receiving the applications, state regulators on Friday approved permits for Ursa Resources’ BMC B pad, giving the operator the ability to move forward with phase 1 of its plans to drill in Battlement Mesa while touching off a flurry of outcry from opponents, including a call for the governor to get involved.
The decision by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission came a little less than two months after it approved permits for Ursa’s BMC D pad, a 28-well pad also in Battlement Mesa, and as Ursa continues to evaluate another site located across the river and within 700 feet of Grand Valley High School.
“We’re pleased that we have those permits in hand. It’s been a long process,” Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa, said Monday. “We think we’ve worked collaboratively with the COGCC to answer their questions and give them comfort on what we’re going to do for conditions of approval and best management practices for our permits.”
As was the case with the pad approved earlier this summer, approval of B pad, which calls for 24 natural gas wells, came with a list of conditions of approval and best management practices.
Those conditions did not alleviate concerns from some residents, who repeated assertions that distance is the best mitigation tool.
“The conditions of approval are just window dressing,” Betsy Leonard, a Battlement Mesa resident, said in a press release. “We appreciate that the COGCC is asking a lot from Ursa, but these projects will directly impact our lives for years. These COA’s should be considered among the minimum required precautions by an operator even thinking about putting in wells next to people’s homes.”
Others aimed their complaints at state regulators.
“This decision makes one thing very clear — the COGCC will never say ‘no’ to operators, even if the location is obviously putting people at risk,” Doug Saxton, co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens, said in the press release.
While understanding of concerns and comments from residents, Colorado has some of the most rigorous, if not the most rigorous, regulations in the U.S. concerning oil and gas development, and the COGCC acted with the public’s health, safety and welfare in mind, Matt Lepore, COGCC director, said Monday.
Ursa’s B pad did receive additional scrutiny due to its proximity to the Colorado River and the Battlement Mesa raw water intake system — a fact that raised concerns from some in the community and regulators at the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, who noted in March that Ursa had provided “substantially incorrect information.”
CDPHE also raised concerns about a proposed injection well on the B pad.
In the time since then, Ursa pulled its permit to drill the injection well and met with CDPHE on site to address concerns, Simpson said.
“They are satisfied with the [conditions of approval] and [best management practices] in the permits.”
Ursa did leave the injection well in its siting permit, which is standard procedure, according to Lepore. Operators are asked to include everything they believe could be placed on a pad in the siting permits. Ursa would still need to go through county and state permitting processes before it could place an injection well at the site.
Still, at least one person opposed to the Ursa pads in Battlement Mesa issued a statement requesting Gov. John Hickenlooper meet with residents to hear concerns.
“We call on Governor Hickenlooper to sit down with citizens that are being incredibly impacted by this industry,” “Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizen’s Alliance, said in a statement. “We ask the governor to stand with his Department of Health and Environment that has stated that oil and gas waste injection wells do not belong in neighborhoods or immediately upstream of a community’s water intake.”
When contacted by the Post Independent Monday, a spokesperson for the governor said it was the first time the governor’s office had heard about the request, and more time was needed to gather additional facts.
Lepore said he was aware of two instances in which citizens requested a meeting and actually met with the governor over concerns about specific siting issues for oil and gas development. In both of those cases the requests were made before COGCC rendered a decision, according to Lepore.
As for the planned well pad near Grand Valley High School, Ursa is still working with stakeholders to address concerns.
“We have not yet decided exactly what we’re going to do as far as that site,” Simpson said.
Ursa plans to start drilling its two pads in Battlement Mesa in 2017. Simpson did not have an exact time for when construction would start.
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