Battlement drilling hearing continued to Thursday
Citing a desire for further dialogue, Garfield County commissioners continued to a third day a public hearing on Ursa Resource’s proposal to drill inside the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development.
The meeting continues at 9 a.m. Thursday at the county administration building in Glenwood Springs. Commissioners unanimously made the decision after a second day of public testimony and discussion with staff and Ursa representatives.
Roughly six hours into Wednesday’s meeting, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said he wanted to “clean up or change” some of the conditions of approval and he did not want to do so “on the fly.” He did not specify which of the more than 70 conditions of approval — recommended by the county’s planning commission — he wanted to discuss, but Jankovsky wanted to leave the public hearing open to allow for additional comments from the public and Ursa.
Commissioner Mike Samson agreed.
“This is a very emotional decision,” he said. “This is perhaps, if not the most, one of the most toughest, strenuous, important decisions we’ll make as a board. I don’t see a big rush as necessary.”
Wednesday was the second day commissioners heard public testimony.
Speaking to a question continually asked by residents, Battlement Mesa resident Bob Arrington presented a report concluding that Ursa could reach the natural gas from outside the planned unit development — essentially, the Battlement residential area — with “proven and safe” technology.
His report included diagrams showing wells by WPX, another local operator, that were drilled at angles steeper than the 45 degrees Ursa has said it can not exceed for fear of jeopardizing the integrity of the well.
“It is good, that’s a given,” Arrington said of Ursa’s procedures. “But can they do better? Can they drill from the outside [the PUD]? That’s the question that they didn’t answer.”
Asked for a response by Samson, Matt Honeycutt, operations superintendent with Ursa, explained that he was not familiar with the WPX wells and was unaware of any others in the formation drilled at a steeper angle than 45 degrees.
Every location is different, Honeycutt explained, and Ursa has looked extensively at other locations and options for well pads. If it were possible, technologically and logistically, to access the gas from outside the PUD then Ursa would have done so and avoided additional costs and the need to obtain special use permits to drill — a requirement established when the PUD was formed.
Honeycutt’s remarks spoke to residents’ request that a comprehensive drilling plan be added as a condition of approval.
Ursa has shared its plans for drilling within Battlement Mesa numerous times, Rob Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa. Phase one — which includes the 53 wells on two pads and 2.5 miles of pipeline for which Ursa is currently seeking permits for — is the immediate plan. Ultimately, Ursa could have up to five pads in the PUD per a revised surface use agreement. Each one of those pads would require a special use permit from the county in addition to standard permits from state agencies such as the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
With so many variable factoring into decisions of timing and location, Ursa can only provide so much detail, Honeycutt said, adding that Ursa spent approximately 18 months coming up with the location for the two pads currently being considered.
Commissioners also went over additional conditions of approval recommended by the citizen group Battlement Concerned Citizens. Repeating remarks made Tuesday, Dave Devanney, chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, said many residents do not want to see any drilling in the PUD, where there would be “a huge impact to the residents.”
Following Wednesday’s meeting, Devanney said he was not optimistic that he and others would prevail in preventing approval of the applications.
“I think the die was cast and the applications would be approved regardless of the nuisances,” he said.
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