Garfield County commissioners approve of injection well in residential area
In a decision that will affect Battlement Mesa residents for years to come, the Garfield County commissioners voted Thursday to allow a small injection well inside the 5,000-person residential community.
The injection well application, which received heavy criticism and some support from residents across the Western Slope, was ultimately approved because the commissioners believed it was the best option for Battlement Mesa.
“As I look at the number of truck trips that [having an injection well] will save, I think it’s in the best interest of the community,” said Commissioner Tom Jankovsky.
According to Ursa Resources, which last year won approval to drill for natural gas from within the housing development, the well will eliminate the need for 30 to 50 truck trips per day during the production phase of the project.
The overall project, which has taken months to return to the commissioners, was approved unanimously Thursday. It includes 55 natural gas wells to be drilled at two well pads in the Battlement Mesa residential area, a small injection well at one of the pads, a natural gas pipeline associated with both pads and a temporary water storage facility.
“I said [at an April commissioner’s hearing] that you have to convince me that this is going to be safe,” Commissioner Mike Samson said Thursday. “You have helped alleviate a lot of the concerns I had. I think you’ve done an admirable job in Phase I, but I ask that you do an even better job on Phase II. I don’t like injection wells, but I understand.”
Thursday’s hearing took hours, with testimony from residents across the county.
“To me this is a moral issue,” said Jennifer Moore. “Why do we have these in our yards?”
After attending several oil and gas application hearings this year, she said that she thinks “the people are powerless to protect ourselves.”
Sheryl Brandon, who used to live in Battlement Mesa, said that she still feels for the people that live there.
“I’d like one of you to move out there and see what it’s like,” she told the commissioners.
But Carbondale resident Chuck Hall urged commissioners to approve the application. “From my point of view, the injection well does positive things for the community,” he said.
In the end, each of the commissioners offered reasons for their vote, praising Ursa for how it handled a contentious situation.
“I think there’s a small contingency that might disagree, but you have gone out of your way to try to explain things as best they can be explained during uncomfortable circumstances,” Samson said.
Commissioner Tom Jankovsky, the lone commissioner to vote against a text amendment earlier in the year, praised Ursa for following best management practices and said that the company has done a good job on the proposed locations of the well.
To date 210 of 299 wells, or 70 percent, have been drilled to full development in the Battlement Mesa PUD and surrounding area, primarily from pad locations outside the PUD, Ursa said in information presented Thursday.
A total of 108 wells will be drilled on four pads inside the PUD (52 of which have already been drilled).
Since beginning its operations, Ursa has reduced the number of well pads from 14 to 10, now to four.
In response to some of the public comments made at the first part of the hearing Tuesday, Ursa Operations Regulatory Manager Jennifer Lind said that the company has a proven track record of making noise and odor modifications as needed during operations, and will continue compliance during drilling and completions.
She added that Ursa uses water-based mud instead of oil-based, the latter of which is more likely to cause odors. She said the access roads leading up to the A Pad will also be upgraded to reduce dust.
Ursa will install three ground water monitoring wells that will be sampled regularly at the A Pad.
The company will also pay a one-time contribution of $55,000 for air quality monitoring, Lind said. All tanks will have lined secondary containment.
Grand Valley Citizens Alliance President Leslie Robinson was not satisfied.
“Garfield County citizens should be concerned about how the county commissioners arbitrarily follow their own county regulations and comprehensive plan depending on who you are — obviously oil and gas will always get what they what from these three commissioners despite pleas from their constituents,” she said after the decision.