Regulators approve 1 of 2 well pads in Battlement Mesa
The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on Thursday approved applications for one of two well pads in Battlement Mesa.
The decision, which opponents on Friday said hardly comes as a surprise, gives the operator the green light to move forward on its BMC D pad, located off County Road 307 south of Battlement Parkway. It comes with 36 conditions of approval and 14 best management practices aimed at mitigating impacts.
The D pad — which includes 28 wells, two condensate tanks, six water tanks and a pigging station (used for pipeline maintenance) — is one of two pads for which Ursa is seeking approval to drill in the residential community of nearly 5,000 people.
The other pad, Ursa’s BMC B pad, is still being reviewed.
In April, Ursa requested a hearing on its applications for both pads, a extremely rare move by an operator, but has since requested two continuations. Several citizen groups were granted the ability to participate in the hearing, if it happens.
As COGCC director Matt Lepore explained in a statement Friday, the D pad is no longer up for a hearing since it has been approved.
“We have approved the D pad, which means there will not be a hearing on that pad,” Lepore said. “Our review of the B pad is ongoing, and the hearing scheduled for Glenwood was continued by Ursa until the Aug. 29 hearing. Again, if approved before then, the hearing (on the B pad) will not occur.”
Earlier this week at a community meeting in Battlement Mesa — where some residents voiced continued opposition and skepticism regarding Ursa’s plans — Rob Bleil, Ursa’s regulatory and environmental manager, said the operator was expecting a decision from COGCC in the next two weeks.
That statement removed any shock that Thursday’s decision may have had, said Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizen’s Alliance, a group that has fought the locations of the two pads in Battlement Mesa.
“We’re still not satisfied,” Robinson said Friday. “We feel that there could have been better locations for those pads … that they didn’t need to be within a thousand feet of people’s homes.”
According to a drawing provided to COGCC by Ursa, a multifamily residence is 820 feet from the nearest well on the D pad, while a single family home is 726 feet away from the nearest production facility on the pad.
IN BUSINESS OF APPROVAL
Dave Devanney, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, another group opposed to the plans, shared similar thoughts on both the lack of surprise and the disappointment.
“The COGCC is in the business of approving O&G drilling applications — regardless of the impact on residents,” Devanney said in an email Friday. “The industry and Ursa acknowledge there will be negative impacts on all residents — young and old. The regulators know this, too, but there is little that they can or will do at this point.”
Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa, pointed to the conditions of approval and best management practices approved along with the pad, calling it “the most comprehensive (such conditions) we’ve ever had.”
Some of those mitigation measures outlined by the state refer specifically to conditions of approvals agreed to in December, when Garfield County commissioners spent three days reviewing the plans and listening to testimony from residents and Ursa. Commissioners unanimously approved Ursa’s applications after striking an agreement on a number of conditions.
One of the county’s conditions included in the state approval is a time frame commitment requiring Ursa to bring all 28 wells into full production within three years from the start of construction on the pad.
Ursa also is required to conduct continuous sound monitoring during construction, drilling and completion activities.
According to the state’s condition of approval, “the operator must have a documented process for responding to sound levels that exceed COGCC sound limits and must provide continuous sound monitoring data to COGCC on tables or graphs within 48 hours of a request.”
‘WE HAVE TO DO THEM ALL’
Daily odor monitoring should be conducted during the completions stage, and documentation of that monitoring must be made available to COGCC or the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment.
“All of them are important,” Simpson said of the conditions of approval and best management practices. “We take them in that light equally, so we have to do them all. That’s the key.”
Neither Robinson nor Devanney had thoroughly reviewed the state’s approval conditions Friday afternoon.
Robinson said the two groups plan to offer feedback on the mitigation measures Tuesday during the COGCC’s meeting in Glenwood Springs. They also plan to comment on Ursa’s B pad and state concerns with its proximity to the Colorado River, as well as its location upriver from Battlement Mesa’s water intake.
Since Ursa’s hearing was continued to August, Robinson said the groups — Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Battlement Concerned Citizens — plan to speak during the public comment portion of the meeting. She encouraged concerned residents both in Battlement Mesa and beyond to share their concerns at the meeting.
As for the B pad, Simpson said Ursa is still working with COGCC on additional conditions of approval. Due to the pad’s location within 400 feet of the river, there will likely be additional conditions. However, Simpson said there are dozens of well pads closer to the river than the B pad.
COGCC’s meeting is scheduled to start at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Glenwood Springs Community Center.
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