Community weighs in on Battlement drilling plan | PostIndependent.com

Community weighs in on Battlement drilling plan

Ryan Hoffman
rhoffman@citizentelegram.com
URSA representatives, Matt Honeycutt, Rob Bleil, and Tilsa Evans consult with the Garfield county commissioners about their plans to continue drilling, in and around Battlement Mesa.
Chelsea Self / Post Independent |

Public comment on Ursa Resources’ applications to drill within the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development (PUD) continued in Glenwood Springs Wednesday, one day after county commissioners heard a full day of testimony from opponents and supporters in the unincorporated community.

The ongoing testimony on Wednesday continued as of press deadline without a clear idea on whether or not the commissioners intended on acting on the applications to drill 53 wells on two pads in the PUD and construct 2.5 miles of pipeline.

Ursa needs special use permits from the county in order to move forward for plans within the PUD, where a number of residents have expressed concerns about the proposed operations’ close proximity to homes.

As Commissioner John Martin explained that Tuesday, the timing of any decision is at the commissioners’ discretion. Residents had lobbied the county to hold at least one meeting in Battlement Mesa, which led the county to hold Tuesday’s meeting. More than 150 people attended and comments, both for and against the applications, continued for more than three hours Tuesday before the meeting closed.

Opponents of the current proposal understand the benefits, economic and others, of the energy industry, said Don Gray, a Battlement Mesa resident who collected more than 400 petition signatures requesting commissioners to reject the applications.

“We’re not trying to stop drilling,” Gray said. “We’re just trying to protect our homes and our community and our quality of life.”

Pads already drilled directly outside the PUD have sparked health concerns, said Bonnie Smeltzer, a Battlement resident who lives within a quarter-mile of existing well pads outside of the PUD. Headaches, eye irritations and a nosebleed that Smeltzer said sent her to the emergency room are indicative of living in an industrial zone. Ursa always is quick to respond and offer explanations, she added, but “explanations are not solutions.”

“Consider this,” Smeltzer said to the commissioners, “would you buy a house here and raise your family here in an industrial zone?”

The question was asked several more times as residents concerned about health impacts and losses in property value testified.

Others spoke positively of Ursa’s engagement with the community, including Chuck Hall, chair of the Battlement Mesa Service Association’s oil and gas committee. Hall said he had not experienced some of the same issues others spoke of, and he commended Ursa for doing “a good job of trying to inform us of what’s going on in the community.”

Contractors in the energy industry stated their belief that Ursa has done much more than what other operators have done.

Jeremy Celayeta, who works for an oil and gas contractor in Parachute, informed the commissioners that he had worked with many companies, and while Battlement Mesa residents have every right to be concerned, Celayeta thought Ursa had gone “above and beyond” in agreeing to “unprecedented” standards and conditions of approval.

For continued coverage of the meeting, visit citizentelegram.com.


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