Williams needs county permits for Battlement Mesa drill sites
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – Two Williams Production well pads that were found to have been operating within the boundaries of the Battlement Mesa PUD for several years will give Garfield County sort of a trial run on a special use permit process that it recently discovered is required for natural gas drilling within the residential community.
Garfield County commissioners, acting Monday on a “takings determination” filed by Williams, required the company to formally apply for a land use change permit in order to continue to operate the well pads.
In the meantime, Williams will be allowed to continue operating the six active gas wells that already exist on the two sites. It will also be allowed to proceed with plans to drill 16 more wells.
When the first-of-its-kind application is filed by Williams, a public hearing will be scheduled before the county planning commission, followed by a county commissioners hearing on Dec. 14.
Williams attorney Jim Borgel said that, though it’s his position that the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has the ultimate authority over gas well permitting, the company is willing to proceed under the county’s recommendation.
“If Williams were prohibited from producing from these pads, it would be a significant economic burden,” Borgel said, noting that one of the well sites has been in existence for nearly 20 years.
The well pads are located on the far northeastern portion of the larger, 1,250-acre Battlement Mesa PUD, far from any residential development.
“Both well pads have been in existence and active for a long time,” Borgel said. “Williams was never aware of fact that a special use permit was required, and I don’t think county really knew either. It was a mutual mistake.”
The permit requirement was written into the original planned unit development (PUD) approvals for Battlement Mesa in the mid-1970s. It only came to light, however, when Antero Resources announced earlier this year that it hopes to develop 10 drilling pads with up to 200 gas wells within the PUD.
Antero has been told it will have to go through the county’s permit review process once its plans are finalized.
The county, in looking into the issue more closely, discovered that the two existing Williams sites are within the PUD and issued a notice of anticipated enforcement to Williams on Aug. 7. Williams responded with the request for a takings determination, which is a new remedy spelled out for any land-use violations in the county’s 2008 Unified Land Use code.
Bill Nelson, a Battlement Mesa resident and chairman of the Battlement Mesa oil and gas committee, said the committee reviewed the Williams matter and does not object to the wells continuing to operate in the meantime.
“Williams has always operated in an unobtrusive manner and used best practices,” Nelson said. “Since these well pads were already in place, and in areas where there are no adverse impact to residents, we decided not to file any protest.”
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