GarCo Planning Commission approves Ursa’s Battlement plans
The Garfield County Planning Commission approved special use permits to drill in the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development after another lengthy public hearing that started Wednesday evening and ended Thursday morning.
The approval — accompanied with numerous recommended conditions — effectively sends the applications to the county commissioners for approval or denial.
The applications are for two pads totaling 53 wells and a 2.5-mile pipeline connecting the two pads and continuing in the PUD. A date for that meeting was not set, but as the clock approached 1 a.m., Chairman Bob Fullerton told the remaining members of the audience that Garfield County Commissioner John Martin stated the meeting would be held in Battlement Mesa.
While several of the planning commissioners commented on the undesirable situation of having oil and gas operations in such close proximity to residences in the PUD, Ursa’s willingness to work with the county on mitigation measures typically not required from an operator was enough to garner a vote of approval.
All three applications were approved by a vote of 6-1.
The decision came after nearly seven hours after the meeting started, and followed 90 minutes of public testimony and presentations from county staff and Ursa representatives. Those two parties addressed concerns from a Planning Commission hearing Sept. 23. Additional information was requested regarding noise, emissions and odor control, spill prevention, light mitigation and several other items.
Echoing remarks from the previous meeting, Fred Jarman, Garfield County community development director, noted that the county does not have specific noise regulations, but relies on standards from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Shortly after the September meeting, Ursa contracted with Behrens and Associates for a noise study on the two proposed pads. Among the recommendations in the study were erecting 40-foot sound walls surrounding both pads, as well as 20-foot walls surrounding fracking pump trucks inside pad during completions — the phase commonly referred to as fracking. According to the study, if the mitigation measures are implemented, the noise level at 350 feet from both pads would be well below COGCC standards.
Essentially, the state sets a bar, the county requested Ursa raise that bar and the study shows Ursa is going beyond the requests, Jarman said.
The study, however drew criticism from several members of the public, which led alternate commissioner Matt Langhorst to ask about the study and concerns over sound affecting homes located above one of the proposed wells.
Matt Honeycutt, operations superintendent with Ursa, clarified that the numbers presented were without mitigation and the study provides several other mitigation options. Specifically, he said one option could involve placing sound walls within the pad closer to the noise source in order to deflect sound away from the homes above.
Beyond noise, another condition of approval reached between county staff and Ursa would call for an on-site air quality monitoring program.
“We really have gone way above and beyond,” Rob Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa, said of the overall work on the proposal.
Several planning commissioners made similar remarks before voting on the applications.
Still, many residents attended to object and share specific concerns with the proposal. Before the meeting, opponents held signs outside the county administration building protesting the plan. Employees and business owners in the oil and gas industry also spoke during the public hearing, largely in favor of Ursa. The broad topics from members of the public led Fullerton to cut off several speakers, both opposed and in favor of the proposal.
After the meeting, Jarman said he did not know when the applications would appear before the county commissioners for a public hearing. Once a date is determined, public notice will be given, he added.
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