County submitting comments on Ursa plans
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission appears poised to consider including some conditions reached by Garfield County and Ursa Resources as best management practices during the state permitting process for planned operations in Battlement Mesa.
COGCC’s incorporation of the conditions of approval, which were reached during three days of public hearings in December, would add further weight to those requirements.
A letter from COGCC Director Matt Lepore clarified that many of the conditions were either outside the scope of what the state’s oil and gas regulatory agency oversees or they were items that COGCC already regulates — making them redundant to include as best management practices.
For example, one condition requires that the county be able to request a site inspection with reasonable notice. That condition is outside COGCC’s jurisdiction and therefore could not be included as a best management practice, Lepore noted in his letter.
Other conditions, however, do fall within COGCC’s jurisdiction and could be included as best management practices in the state’s permit.
One subsection of a condition requiring that Ursa have water trucks on site during extraction and processing phases could be included since dust is within the purview of COGCC. The same goes for conditions pertaining to sound, hours of operation and others.
In some instances, such as lighting, the conditions reached in the county’s permitting process go beyond COGCC standards. However, that would not prevent the state from potentially including them as best management practices, Lepore stated.
The county cannot force the state to adopt any of the conditions determined during the local permitting process, Kirby Wynn, Garfield County oil and gas liaison, said on Monday. It can submit a letter, though, asking COGCC to consider adopting those conditions as part of the state permit.
The conditions still apply — meaning the county is responsible for enforcement and Ursa is responsible for complying with them — regardless of whether or not COGCC includes them during the state permitting. But, as Wynn told commissioners Monday, having the state sign on “adds weight.”
In some instances, Lepore wrote that conditions were too vague to include with state permits. Among those was a subcondition addressing heat, glare, radiation and fumes.
“Every use shall be so operated that it does not emit heat, glare, radiation or fumes which substantially interfere with the existing use of the adjoining property or which constitutes a public nuisance or hazard,” the county’s condition reads.
Leslie Robinson, president of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, one of the organizations that lobbied the commissioners to reject the applications, asked if additional information could be submitted for those conditions Lepore said were too vague.
Although Lepore did not go into great detail in his letter, some of those conditions cited as too vague came from the county’s land use code, Fred Jarman, Garfield County community development director, explained Monday. Since enforcement still falls on the county, conditions need to be aligned with the county’s land use code.
Further, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said the county could not simply go back and change the conditions that were determined over three days worth of public hearings.
Construction unlikely until 2017
Ursa plans on drilling two natural gas well pads, totaling 52 wells, inside the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development, as well as constructing 2.5 miles of pipeline that will run through the PUD. Commissioners approved the local applications in December after three days of public hearing.
Some residents lobbied the county to reject the applications due to possible health impacts and other concerns from having drilling operations in close proximity to residences. Many of those concerns led to the lengthy list of conditions that were included with the final resolutions approved by commissioners.
And as Garfield County Commissioner John Martin noted on Monday, many of the conditions came from Ursa in an effort to be a good neighbor.
In addition to the applicable conditions of approval, commissioners also directed Wynn to include language asking COGCC to consider any findings or possible recommendations by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment. The county previously asked COGCC to consult with the state’s health agency.
COGCC agreed to consult with CDPHE, which, according to Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa, will be conducting a site visit later this week. Simpson added that Ursa has no objections and “nothing to worry about” concerning the CDPHE consultation.
It’s unclear what CDPHE might recommend and the findings likely will not be available in time to include specifically in the county’s comments before the Feb. 16 comment submission deadline, Wynn said. However, the county could ask that COGCC consider the findings, which is ultimately what the commissioners directed Wynn to include in his letter.
Although the comment period for Ursa’s applications is open until Feb. 16, Wynn told commissioners on Monday that he intended on submitting the county’s comments this week.
Previously, Ursa officials stated that if all the permits were obtained without significant delays, construction inside the PUD could start in the fall. Ursa does not expect any hiccups with COGCC, according to Simpson, who added the state agency has been involved and informed through almost every step of the process.
However, Simpson said that construction will likely start in 2017, rather than later this year. Ursa, which is currently operating one of the three active rigs in Garfield County, wants to complete projects outside the PUD before breaking ground inside the PUD. That is mostly due, Simpson said, to a condition of approval with the county that requires Ursa complete phase one projects within three years from the start of construction.
More details could be available in March when Ursa hosts its biannual community meetings. The first is at 6 p.m. March 16 at the Grand Valley Fire Protection District headquarters, 124 Stone Quarry Road, in Battlement Mesa. The second meeting is at 6 p.m. March 17 at the Colorado River Fire Rescue house in Silt at 611 Main St.
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