County rejects group’s request for support of drilling approval delay
The Garfield County commissioners on Friday rejected a request from a citizens group that is hoping to win a delay of gas drilling approvals just outside Battlement Mesa for a month or more.But the commissioners voted in favor of, under certain circumstances, imposing retroactive restrictions on the wells in question.These restrictions, the board concluded, would be imposed if an ongoing health study reveals what one commissioner called “a major find” regarding negative human health effects from living near gas wells.One application from EnCana Oil & Gas (USA), and two from Antero Resources, would establish three drilling pads just outside the boundaries of Battlement Mesa.Antero also plans to apply for state permits to drill up to 200 wells from 10 different pads inside the boundaries of the community.Jon Black, Rifle area representative for Antero Resources, said the two Antero wells are to be included in a “comprehensive drilling plan” for Battlement Mesa that will fall under Garfield County’s review authority.And Doug Hock, spokesman for EnCana, said the idea of retroactive restrictions based on new health-impact information might be “appropriate.”The Battlement Concerned Citizens had sought county support for their direct request to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which seeks to put a hold on applications for several drilling pads just outside the boundary of Battlement Mesa, an unincorporated community of 5,500 near Parachute.The group wants the state to wait until the final release of a Health Impact Assessment [HIA], being compiled by the Colorado School of Public Health about human health data at Battlement Mesa, which is expected within the next two months or so. The study was commissioned to help Garfield County decide how to deal with potential health impacts of drilling in residential neighborhoods.”Our position is the impacts are not going to be known or fully understood until the HIA is completed,” said Ron Galterio of the BCC.Because of a provision in the development approvals for Battlement Mesa, Garfield County has unique, if limited, review authority over the planned 10 well pads within the community.The BOCC does not have the same authority over gas wells elsewhere in the county, because the industry throughout Colorado is controlled by the COGCC.The three wells under discussion this week are outside the community boundary, and not subject to Garfield County review.Black told the BOCC that Antero will lump its two outside well pads in with the 10 well pads inside the boundary.The two groupings of wells will be combined in a comprehensive drilling plan that is now being drawn up, he indicated, because the outside-Battlement wells are within a half-mile of that boundary.”We understand that, yes, there is an impact, and we … want to mitigate that impact,” Black told the BOCC during the meeting Friday.EnCana, according Hock, will not submit its drilling plans to county authority in observance of the half-mile proximity.”We don’t feel that that’s necessary,” said Hock by telephone on Friday, explaining that EnCana feels the existing state rules are “adequate to ensure the health, safety and welfare of the email@example.com
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