Garfield County to step in if Antero drills near Battlement
Post Independent staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
Garfield County officials agreed this week to step in on behalf of constituents if plans move ahead to drill for natural gas just outside the boundary of a densely populated but unincorporated community in western Garfield County.
Antero Resources recently submitted proposed site location applications to construct three drilling pads adjacent to the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development (PUD), located across the Colorado River from the town of Parachute.
One of the three sites is near the intersection of Stone Quarry Road and Monument Trail. Two others are located very near Tamarisk Meadows, a neighborhood within Battlement Mesa that lies along Stone Quarry Road.
Typically, a company drills multiple well bores from a single drilling pad.
Antero, one of several gas drilling companies working
in Garfield County, also has announced plans to drill up to 200 wells, from nine different pads, within the Battlement Mesa PUD itself. No applications for those wells have been submitted yet to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC), the state agency that oversees the gas and oil industry.
Regarding the three sites just outside the community, several Battlement Mesa residents said the pads are too close for comfort to residential neighborhoods.
Ron Galterio, co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens group, told the Board of County Commissioners on Dec. 6 that the three sites “are just as close to major residential areas as any of the proposed Antero sites within the PUD.”
And, he said, the COGCC is proceeding with the application process with no regard for a recently conducted health impact assessment (HIA).
The HIA, which is undergoing review as a draft right now, is intended to give government officials a firmer understanding of the possible health, safety and welfare impacts from nearby gas drilling activities.
“We strongly feel these locations are going to have a significant impact,” Galterio continued. He said that documents indicate that one or another of the pads is anywhere from about 300 feet to around 800 feet from roads, homes or other facilities.
In addition, he said, “Our prevailing winds come from that direction,” so any fumes or dust issuing from the drilling pads would be blown into the neighborhoods.
Another resident, Dave Devanney, advised the commissioners that Antero has begun earth-moving activities at the sites, kicking up dust that is sailing into the neighborhoods.
He said the HIA showed there is a high potential for “significant health impacts” to those living near gas wells.
As evidence of impacts, he pointed to a single episode in July, odors coming from the Watson Ranch pad just west of the community, that quadrupled the normal flow of complaints about gas drilling activities.
A report from Jeff Simonson, chair of the county’s Energy Advisory Board, indicated that Antero responded quickly to those complaints, and installed new equipment that eliminated the odor problem.
But residents still see the incident as an example of how their lives can be negatively affected by nearby drilling activities.
And besides, Devanney argued, “It appears Antero is trying to circumvent the HIA by trying to drill outside the PUD boundaries.”
Drilling outside the boundaries also would mean the company would not be subject to the county’s special-use review, which is required of all oil and gas drilling inside the PUD.
“We are looking down the road and seeing the same kind of thing happening,” Devanney told the commissioners.
Efforts to reach Antero officials on Monday for comment were not successful.
The county’s oil and gas liaison, Judy Jordan, told the commissioners that, while the state has not acted on the applications yet, once action is taken the county will have just 10 days to file a request for a hearing.
The commissioners directed Jordan to request a formal hearing before the COGCC about the three applications if they are approved, and to request that the COGCC defer any final decision about the applications until after the HIA is finalized and released.
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