Battlement injection well plan to be altered — activists call it a win
The Garfield County Planning Commission on Wednesday delayed action on a request to allow injection wells within the Battlement Mesa residential area so the plan, opposed by Planning Commission staff, can be changed.
Battlement Mesa Partners, requesting the zoning change for Ursa Resources’ natural gas operations, asked commissioners before a packed hearing room for time to amend the proposal.
“This is a victory for residents,” said Dave Devanney, co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens. “It was clear that public opinion was against the idea of creating an injection well zone in our community, especially one so close to our drinking water supply. Although we may see this proposal resurface in another form, tonight residents of Battlement Mesa can take comfort knowing their water is safe — for now.”
The hearing was moved to the March 8 Planning Commission meeting. The Planning Commission staff last week recommended rejecting the proposal in large part because it is close to the community’s water intake.
“I think it would be in the board’s best interest to allow for a continuance so that we can make changes to our application,” said Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co. “A continuance would allow us to bring you more complete information on the request.”
Among the biggest changes would be to change the size of the area requested for rezoning to allow wells to dispose of wastewater from the fracking process. Drilling within the Planned Unit Development already has been approved by Garfield County and the state.
According to Schmela, the revised application will reduce the area of the project by nearly half. The previous proposal sought to rezone 37 acres along the north end of the community by the Colorado River. An updated application will reduce that area by 50 percent, stated Schmela.
Not only will the new application reduce the size of the injection zone, but it will also move the well away from the Colorado River and water treatment intake.
Several organizations have opposed the rezoning, including the Colorado Department of Pubic Health and Environment, which wrote a letter last February recommending that injection wells not be permitted within Battlement Mesa.
“After considering the long-term risk to the public water supply and the flexibility available to the operator when locating Class II injection wells the department recommends that the COGCC deny the permit for the injection well and the associated storage tanks on the Ursa BMC B well pad,” the letter said.
Following Wednesday’s commission meeting, Schmela said the proposed changes to the application will eliminate the B pad.
“This action shows that the people of Garfield County can stand up to the oil and gas companies and have an effect,” said Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens’ Alliance. “Even people in support of natural gas development know that injection wells and wastewater disposal are dangerous. A line must be drawn somewhere and residents, the county, and the state made it clear Ursa had crossed it.”
The two citizens groups said they would resist the amended plan and will fight injection wells anywhere in the PUD boundaries.
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