Drillers seek to delay release of Battlement health report
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Area gas companies are seeking a one-month delay in the issuance of a final “Health Impact Assessment” report regarding drilling plans in the Battlement Mesa community.
Susan Alvillar of the Williams Production drilling company, and David Ludlam, director of the Western Slope office of the Colorado Oil and Gas Association, both asked the Garfield County commissioners this week to allow more time for comment on the report.
Ludlam also maintained that some parts of the draft report’s executive summary contain “conjecture” and “editorializing” by the authors of the report, a team from the Colorado School of Public Health.
Ludlam said the report’s conclusions are flawed by “data gaps” and unsupported “assumptions,” and suggested the county form a “peer review group” of scientists to go over the report with a fine-toothed comb and then issue a conclusion to the commissioners regarding the report’s validity.
“We truly believe a review by a technical expert can only help this process,” said Alvillar, who also suggested that Phase II of the assessment process be put off until after all the comments are in on Phase I.
The industry’s requests came during a public presentation of the draft findings of the Health Impact Assessment to the commissioners on Monday afternoon. Both Alvillar and Ludlam said industry experts need more time to analyze the draft report and submit their comments.
Garfield County’s environmental health director Jim Rada told Alvillar that Phase II already has begun, and that it involves data gathering by both the School of Public Health and Colorado State University.
Dave Devanney, a co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens group in Battlement Mesa, said his organization would agree to the delays if Antero would agree to also delay its applications for permits to drill within the community’s boundaries.
Antero in 2009 announced plans to drill up to 200 gas wells within the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development, an unincorporated community of around 5,500 people next door to the town of Parachute.
Another Battlement Mesa resident voiced concerns that the gas companies would use hired experts to try to alter the report’s conclusions somehow, but Commissioner Tresi Houpt assured her, “That cannot be tampered with.”
After considerable discussion, Dr. Roxana Witter, who presented the report to the commissioners, agreed to talk with her assessment team about the gas firms’ request for more time to make comments.
Witter said she would get back to the commissioners within a week on the matter.
A final report on the assessment is to be made public at a public presentation on Nov. 18.
The draft report is available on the county’s website, at http://www.garfield-county.com.
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