Garfield commissioners clear way for Battlement injection well

Garfield County commissioners Monday moved one step closer to allowing a small injection well within the Battlement Mesa residential boundaries.

Before the vote, injection wells, used to dispose of wastewater from the oil and gas drilling process, were not permitted within Battlement Mesa. With Monday’s vote, the door is  opened.

“I have not made up my mind with injection wells, but I’m willing to let Ursa come forward with their rational why and where this is a good idea,” Samson said after moving to approve a zoning change for the community in unincorporated Garfield County.

“I want to reiterate that we are not approving an injection well,” he said. “This is opening the door for them to submit an application for an injection well. “

Ursa Resources owns mineral rights under the 5,000-person community and last year won Garfield County and state approval to drill for natural gas inside the Planned Unit Development. Since then, the company has looked into placing an injection well within the PUD to dispose of wastewater more effectively than trucking it away.

In fact, at Monday’s hearing, Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co., said that the proposal’s sole purpose is to lessen the surface disturbance caused by oil and gas operations.

“The reason that we are here today is to further our continued desire to reduce the surface impacts,” he said. “The whole point is to put in an injection well so that none of the water hauling efforts need to be hauled through the community.”

Ursa Operations Superintendent Matt Honeycutt added that in the company’s multiple community meetings he heard three main concerns: traffic, odors and noise. He believes that this proposal helps to lessen those concerns.

Several members of the public, including those with local community groups Battlement Concerned Citizens and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, remained skeptical of the benefits of having an injection well in Battlement Mesa.

“Trucking is a temporary hassle; zones for injection wells are forever,” said Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. “We believe that the zone is too close to residential areas, the Colorado River and other municipal facilities.”

The text amendment and zoning change will create a new zone district within the Battlement Mesa PUD that now allows for a small injection well as a special use. The proposed area that is being rezoned is approximately 22 acres in size.

Samson’s motion to approve the change was seconded by Commissioner John Martin, while Commissioner Tom Jankovsky voted to reject the change. Any proposal for an injection well in Battlement Mesa will still need approval by the commissioners.

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