Terra Energy to abandon permits within Battlement Mesa development

Sound walls are erected on three sides at this drilling site to help reduce noise for Battlement Mesa in 2016.
Post Independent file photo

Natural gas production in the populated community of Battlement Mesa hit a new milestone this week.

Garfield County Oil and Gas Liaison Kirby Wynn announced that Texas-based Terra Energy Partners LLC has plans to soon abandon all undeveloped permits for oil and gas wells within Battlement Mesa’s Planned Unit Development (PUD), according to a Western Colorado Alliance news release.

“I’m certain that Terra has better things to do — especially now after acquiring Ursa,” Grand Valley Citizens Alliance chairperson Leslie Robinson said. Grand Valley Citizens Alliance is a grassroots community organization that has over the years challenged natural gas production in Western Garfield County.

Terra, which in late December finalized a $60 million acquisition of a myriad of assets formerly owned by Ursa Resources Group II LLC, now oversees hundreds of oil and gas wells in northwest Colorado’s Piceance Basin.

Ursa’s presence in the unincorporated community of Battlement Mesa Community began in 2016, when they began production on drilling pads and hydraulic fracking practices within hundreds of feet of residential areas. Ursa originally planned to implement a two-phase plan that included drilling 100 wells between four well pads.

Energy development has so far finished phase one of the project, including pads “D” and “B.” The intended phase two would comprise drill pads “L” and “A,” with Pad A to be created 1,500 feet downstream of the Colorado River of Pad B, right next door to the area’s water treatment plant, said Robinson.

“The development of the A Pad was a bad idea from the start,” Battlement Mesa resident Betsy Leonard said in the release.

Leonard is also a member of Western Colorado Alliance’s board of directors, another grassroots organization that over the years has challenged natural gas production in Western Garfield County.

“The location was ill-chosen being 900 feet from the Colorado River, and 600 feet from the water supply for Battlement Mesa,” Leonard said. “But most grievous was the mere 500 feet that separated the location from the homes of low-income residents.”

Ursa has been mired in an amalgamation of civil litigation and legislative regulations.

In 2019, amid a national downturn in oil and gas prices, the Colorado Legislature passed Senate Bill 181, a sweeping regulation that has tightened regulations on oil and natural gas production in the state. One such new rule is that production cannot occur within 2,000 feet of homes and schools, and other institutions, except by an approved variance.

Garfield County commissioners have used $1.5 million from their oil and gas mitigation fund to help guide and in some cases combat the regulations.

By 2020, Ursa owed nearly $6 million to Garfield County entities in back taxes, which were finally collected last week. In addition, the company also separately owed $500,000 to Battlement Mesa Service Association and almost another $800,000 to Rio Blanco County.

By September, Ursa had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Garfield County Commissioner John Martin said Terra’s decision to abandon the Battlement Mesa permits is just the most recent sign of trouble for the extractive industries.

“Well, that’s because they just purchased Ursa and since they did not issue the permit there on A Pad, and it’s been two years and the lawsuit…,” Martin said. “Who knows what’s going to happen, energy is going to be zero and Colorado as well as the U.S. will depend on China and everybody else to take care of us.

“So we won’t be independent,” he asserted.

Martin also acknowledged that with the announcement coming during a downturn in the industry, Garfield County could be negatively impacted economically.

“I don’t think the hot springs pool can get enough people in there and charge them $20 a head to keep the county going,” he said. “But we’ll find a way, we always find a way, we are always optimistic in one way or another … we’ll find it and we’ll be self-sufficient somehow.”

Robinson was more optimistic about making up for any revenue shortfalls.

“With climate change and solar being more important in producing energy and the future of electric cars looking bright … John (Martin) needs to get into the 21st century,” she said. “We’re not going to be fossil fuel driven in the future. I don’t understand why Garfield County continues to support an industry that is dying essentially.”

Support Local Journalism

Support Local Journalism

Readers around Glenwood Springs and Garfield County make the Post Independent’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.

Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.

Each donation will be used exclusively for the development and creation of increased news coverage.