Battlement drilling plans hearing set
9 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 15
Grand Valley Recreation Center, 398 Arroyo Drive, Battlement Mesa
If needed, the meeting will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday, Dec. 16, at the Garfield County administration building located at 108 Eighth Street in Glenwood Springs.
Garfield County commissioners will convene Tuesday morning in Battlement Mesa for a public hearing on proposals by Ursa Resources to drill within the unincorporated community.
And if prior meetings before the county’s planning commission are any indication, the commissioners could be in for a long meeting on an issue that remains controversial among some residents.
The plans call for two well pads totaling 53 wells within the Planned Unit Development and an associated 2.5-mile stretch of pipeline. While the intention to harvest natural gas in the community — which was originally planned as housing for Exxon employees — dates back years, the recent action on plans to extract the underlying resources have angered some residents who worry about possible health effects, negative impacts on their property value and other disturbances.
Other members of the community, including those who work in the industry, have turned out at public meetings to voice their support for the plans. They maintain, as does Ursa, that the company has gone above and beyond and agreed to an unprecedented level of conditions.
While Garfield County regulates certain aspects of the industry, such as pipelines, those same requirements do not apply to drilling. However, the exception to that fact is within the Battlement Mesa PUD, which requires a special use permit and ensuing approval process by the county for drilling proposals, said Fred Jarman, Garfield County community development director.
Two lengthy meetings before the planning commission earlier this fall resulted in a total of 71 recommended conditions of approval for all of phase one — which includes the two pads and the pipeline.
Among the recommended conditions are a three-year time clock that starts once construction begins, and the implementation of an air-monitoring program designed by the county and paid for by Ursa.
Ultimately, the county commissioners will act as the final judge on the applications at the county level.
Those opposed to the project are holding out hope that the commissioners will reject the applications.
“The ideal situation is to not drill in Battlement,” said Doug Saxton, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, a community group opposed to the plans.
While citing the potential negative impacts, opponents have questioned why Ursa must drill within the PUD and why the company is moving forward with the plans at this point in time.
Ursa officials have responded by saying the company has done everything within reason to mitigate drilling and the impact of operations within the PUD.
Of the approximately 197 wells it would take to drill out the entire PUD, 103 would be drilled from outside the PUD, leaving 94 that would have to be drilled inside.
However, Ursa maintains the geology makes it unfeasible to drill entirely outside the PUD. Further, the permitting process has led to an extensive review at the county level that does not apply to operations that are outside the PUD but closer to residences.
Specifically, the existing Monument Ridge Pad is approximately 530 feet, from the edge of the pad, to the nearest building, according to Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa.
Comparatively, the proposed BMC B Pad is 421 feet from a single trailer and 850 feet from the nearest home and neither of those measurements take into account the change in elevation, Simpson said. The proposed BMC D Pad is approximately 726 feet from any building.
That does little to reassure residents who have been impacted by operations as far as 2,000 feet from their homes, Saxton said.
Tuesday’s meeting starts at 9 a.m. at the Grand Valley Recreation Center. Recognizing the level of interest in the issue, the county has set aside two additional days to continue the meeting if needed. Should the meeting fail to conclude Tuesday, it will continue at 9 a.m. Wednesday at the county administration building in Glenwood Springs.
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