Ursa says well pad is not an “absolute best project” | PostIndependent.com

Ursa says well pad is not an “absolute best project”

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com

For the time being, Ursa Resources will not move forward with a controversial proposal to drill a natural gas well pad within 700 feet of Parachute’s Grand Valley High School.

In a letter to Garfield School District 16 and Garfield County Wednesday, the operator stated its intent not to pursue permits for the pad so that Ursa can have more time to plan the “absolute best project” it can.

In consulting with both the county and school district, it became clear the proposal did not meet the “absolute best” criteria, however, that was not due to concerns over safety, health or environment, Don Simpson, Ursa’s vice president of business development, said after a community meeting in Battlement Mesa Wednesday evening.

Ursa took representatives from both groups on tours of drilling and completion operations, as well as a visit to the proposed site near the high school.

Ultimately, the concerns revolved around impacts such as truck traffic, according to Simpson. Ursa had originally proposed a temporary completions facility approximately 3,000 feet west of the actual well pad, but those plans fell through.

“…We said if we couldn’t get it across the finish line we wanted to re-evaluate this thing and figure out a better way to do it,” Simpson said.

Ursa will evaluate alternatives to try to drill out the pad on the property, which it purchased earlier this year. Although those possible alternatives are not yet known and the letter sent Wednesday morning sounded more like a postponement than a cancellation, Simpson did not rule out the possibility of forgoing drilling altogether at the site.

“Here’s the thing, if we can’t go ahead with … what we feel is a good project then we have to re-evaluate the project,” Simpson said. “We like to do only good projects.”

In June, Garfield County commissioners unanimously agreed to participate in a consultation, making it the first local government to follow the process created by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in January, the Post Independent previously reported. Commissioners at the time cited the desire to participate, in part, to make sure the school district had a seat at the table. The pad’s proximity to the high school drew concerns from area residents, some of whom objected to Ursa’s plans to drill within the residential community of Battlement Mesa.

Ursa recently received approval from the state for two well pads that are included in phase 1 of the operator’s plans to drill within Battlement.

For some of the approximately 35 people Wednesday’s meeting, it was phase 2 and a proposed injection well on one of the approved pads that garnered the most questions.

In particular, the injection well has been a point of concern for some residents, and state regulators, given the site’s proximity to the Colorado River and its location upstream from Battlement Mesa’s water intake system.

At the moment, Ursa does not have a timeline for phase 2, which includes three more well pads and a water handling facility. The operator is still working on some of the details in order to minimize impacts, Ursa officials said Wednesday.

And although Ursa does fully intend to pursue the injection well — which requires a separate permitting process — it does not have an exact timeline for when it will move forward with that process.

The insistence of the injection well coupled with Ursa’s plans to drill additional well pads in Battlement Mesa is troublesome, said Doug Saxton, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, a group that has opposed Ursa’s plans to drill within the community.

Speaking after Wednesday’s meeting, Saxton deferred comment on the proposal near the high school to others in the group. But within Battlement Mesa, he worries Ursa will seek additional injection wells as it continues to drill more pads.

Ursa currently has two operational injection wells in the area just outside Battlement Mesa.

As for when construction could start on the two well pads that were recently approved, Ursa’s John Doose said that will likely not happen until sometime in 2017.