Hearing on Ursa applications set for Wednesday
Garfield County will hold its first public hearing on Ursa Resources’ phase one proposal for drilling inside the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development Wednesday before the Planning Commission in Glenwood Springs.
However, in response to residents’ calls for a meeting closer to the unincorporated community in western Garfield County, commissioners recently indicated they are open to hosting a meeting in closer proximity to residents — should the application advance through the process and come before them.
The topic was raised last Tuesday, Sept. 8, by Commissioner Mike Samson, who said he had been contacted by residents requesting a meeting closer than the commissioners’ common meeting place in Glenwood Springs. Samson said he supported the idea.
Although he stated he would have no objections to hearing testimony in Parachute, Commissioner John Martin said it was important to clarify several details — specifically that the initial hearing is before the Planning Commission and commissioners cannot dictate where that body holds its meetings.
Until and unless the issue advances to the commissioners, they do not have the power to determine the location of the meetings and therefore cannot make a commitment, he said.
Acknowledging the process outlined by Martin, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky agreed that hosting a meeting in the Parachute-Battlement Mesa should be considered if and when the time is right.
Complaints over the hearing location were a few of the issues voiced by residents with a much louder tone at several community meetings in late August and early September.
In particular, a meeting on Aug. 31 hosted by Battlement Concerned Citizens, which sent out mailers to every resident in Battlement Mesa, seemed to get a lot of attention, said Dave Devanney, chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens.
“People were unaware of what was going to happen and they’re aware now,” Devanney said in reference to Ursa’s phase one plans, which call for two pads totaling 53 wells and an approximately 2.5-mile pipeline.
The heightened criticism carried into a community meeting hosted by Ursa Sept. 2. Several residents who had not attended four prior meetings hosted by Ursa were especially vocal — at times interrupting speakers.
The meeting hosted by Battlement Concerned Citizens was clearly intended to “rile up” residents, said Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa. As for the claim of increased awareness in the community, Simpson pointed to the previous meetings hosted by Ursa, which were advertised to Battlement Concerned Citizens members and other local organizations.
While there will be impacts during stages of the process — something Ursa officials have previously said is the case with any infrastructure project — Simpson said Ursa has the right to drill in the PUD. The company has worked with residents since acquiring the rights from Antero Resources to address concerns and mitigate impact, Simpson added.
Since those meetings, Devanney said residents who were previously unaware and uninvolved continue to express concern with the plans.
“There’s a number of people that are very motivated to get involved with the process now and attend hearings and give testimony and express their feelings and concerns,” he said.
Several organizations are planning to carpool to Wednesday’s hearing, which starts at 6 p.m. in the county building located at 108 Eighth St. in Glenwood Springs.
Devanney welcomed the news that commissioners were open to holding meetings in the Battlement area. “My expectation is that the commissioners would be more accommodating to their constituents in Battlement and at least do some of the proceedings here locally.”
Samson agreed Monday night.
“That’s not an unreasonable request,” he said.
Ursa will meet at any location the commissioners wish to meet at, Simpson said. Asked about a previous comment stating that he expected the process to take a lengthy amount of time, Simpson said he had nothing to base that assertion on.
“We know the county is going though this with a fine-tooth comb,” he said.
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