Community groups file suit over Battlement Mesa drilling plan
Without the support from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, Battlement Mesa community groups on Thursday filed a lawsuit in Denver District Court in an attempt to stop the most recently approved natural gas site from moving forward.
The BMC A Pad received final approval from the COGCC earlier this year, to include 24 new wells on site as part of Ursa Operating Co.’s phase-two drilling plans in the Battlement Mesa community.
While the COGCC is the Colorado administrative agency charged with overseeing Colorado’s oil and gas resources in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety and welfare, two groups representing Battlement Mesa residents say they feel their voices are not being heard.
“We have maintained for years that A Pad presents a significant hazard to the entire Battlement Mesa community,” Dave Devanney, chairman of Battlement Concerned Citizens, said in a news release. “We have tried every avenue open to us to challenge this proposal, but the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission has given us no other option than to bring the matter before the courts.”
The suit seeks a judicial review from the Denver District Court for the so-called “BMC A Pad Form 2A” permit approval under the Colorado Administrative Procedure Act and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Act.
State officials approved the site in January. It will begin the second phase of Ursa’s plans in the Battlement Mesa community. Phase one included 52 wells drilled at two well pads in the community. Both of those pads moved into production in 2018.
Don Simpson with Ursa Operating Company said in a previous interview that the public was heard in the process of reviewing the proposal.
“We believe that the numerous hours of public comment that we have [had] at the local level has been beneficial and along with our alternative site analysis, we believe that we have a safe pad location that will have minimal impacts to the community,” he said.
The lawsuit states the A Pad is “especially troublesome because it poses special and substantial risks to irreplaceable features in the community,” and asks that the Denver court block its approval because the COGCC “failed to consider legitimate concerns presented by public comments,” among other reasons.
“It is clear that the COGCC is broken,” said Leslie Robinson, who chairs the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, another community group against the A Pad.
“Impacted residents do not have a voice before this decision-making body, so we are forced to take other actions to be heard,” Robinson said. “By approving A Pad, the COGCC is sending a clear message to other Colorado communities that it is ‘business as usual’ and neighborhoods across the state are still defenseless in the face of oil and gas interests.”
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Former Carbondale trustee Katrina Byars said she wants to bring a voice of environmental sustainability to the commission, and believes her opponent has served long enough.