Hearing extended on Ursa Battlement plan | PostIndependent.com

Hearing extended on Ursa Battlement plan

Alex Zorn

The Garfield County Planning Commission had a packed house Wednesday for Ursa's Phase II developments hearing, many of whom stayed until the meeting concluded just before midnight.
Alex Zorn / Post Independent |

A project years in the making arrived before the Garfield County Planning Commission on Wednesday night as Ursa Resources sought to move forward with its operations in Battlement Mesa, but the company will have to wait another two weeks as, after five hours, the commissioners extended the public hearing to their next meeting.

The project includes applications for 55 natural gas wells to be drilled at two well pads in the unincorporated residential area, a small injection well at one of the pads, a natural gas pipeline associated with both pads and a temporary water storage facility.

Ursa 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 Battlement Mesa housing area. Since then, the company has looked into placing an injection well within the planned unit development to dispose of wastewater more efficiently than trucking it away, a proposal that continues to receive heavy criticism.

In April, the Board of County Commissioners approved a small injection well within the PUD, knowing that Ursa would later have to convince the planning commissioners and later the county commissioners of the plan’s validity.

“I have not made up my mind with injection wells, but I’m willing to let Ursa come forward with their rationale why and where this is a good idea,” Commissioner Mike Samson said at the April hearing.

Six applications were brought before the Planning Commission on Wednesday night, each one involving Ursa’s future developments in Battlement Mesa.

Dozens of people spoke at the hearing, many of whom are Battlement Mesa residents, and while the majority spoke against the project, others came forward in favor.

Battlement Mesa resident Jerry Mohrlang sent a letter to the board prior to the hearing in which he wrote, “I am a Battlement Mesa resident who firmly believes that the selected location of the BMC A Pad Well,”where the injection well will be located, “is an excellent compromise from previous considerations and I feel strongly that Ursa’s application for a Special Use Permit should be granted.”

Members of community groups including Battlement Concerned Citizens, Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Western Colorado Congress remain against the injection well proposal and prior to Wednesday pushed to have the hearing delayed.

“Proposing an industrial development for a low-income residential neighborhood and not allowing those residents the opportunity to participate in the siting decision meets the definition of an environmental justice violation,” attorney Matt Sura wrote to the planning commission. “The community groups request that the Planning Commission’s hearing on Ursa’s proposal to drill 24 gas wells and a waste injection well next to Tamarisk Village is delayed until those affected residents can be notified about the proposal.”

While Sura spoke at length that Ursa failed to notify adjacent property owners, ultimately the commissioners felt that notice was properly made and elected to move forward with the hearing.

West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association Executive Director David Ludlam had a much different view, saying he was proud in the way Ursa has conducted itself and wondered what else the company could do to be a good community partner.

Part of Ursa’s presentation included detailed aerial views of all of the well pad locations from multiple different vantage points within the PUD using drones.

Sura said the residents he represents do not want to see injection well approved within the Battlement Mesa PUD and will continue to speak out against the project.

If approved by the Planning Commission, Ursa’s applications will need to be brought before the Board of County Commissioners for its approval before any drilling could begin.

Ultimately, the Planning Commission decided to go into a continuance for the hearing which will held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26.

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