Letters to the editor
Editor’s note: Due to the large quantity of letters and a desire to serve as a community forum where conversations unfold in timely fashion, The Citizen Telegram is not publishing a column by Editor Ryan Hoffman this week. Ryan’s column will return next week. To submit your letter, email firstname.lastname@example.org or go to citizentelegram.com and click on “contribute.” Preference is given to letters exclusive to The Telegram. Letters may be edited for proper punctuation, sentence and word usage, content and space. Publication of political letters does not imply endorsement.
Reasons for recall effort in Parachute
OK, so as of the Sept. 17 Parachute Board of Trustees meeting, Parachute citizens were grudgingly given permission to vote on the marijuana issue. But, by law, not until November of 2016. So, you may ask, why have we decided to try to recall certain elected Parachute Town officials? Two main reasons, as well as some secondary reasons, for which I won‘t take up print space here.
1. We’ve been told all along that the main reason for having retail marijuana shops is to bring in other business. People from Interstate 70 will flock to our town, and this will encourage other businesses to locate here, helping solve our town’s fiscal problems.
Yet, at the Sept. 17 meeting, one of the representatives of one of the proposed retail shops presented almost 50 pages of “letters” from businesses and individuals in support of them bringing recreational (not medical) marijuana to town. I was somewhat impressed that so many had chosen to voice their support in writing.
However, when we obtained copies of the letters from the town, we discovered that they were form letters, petitions, if you will, produced by that applicant. Each letter was identical and stated that the person who signed it was a resident of Parachute over the age of 21. What, in part, the form letter also said was: “The demand for retail marijuana and retail marijuana product in the town is not currently being met, therefore there is a need in the neighborhood . . .”
Apparently, they think their target market is Parachute and/or Battlement Mesa, not just travelers on I-70. There were 47 pages, with two from business owners, 19 from Parachute residents, seven from the address of a local motel, and 19 from Battlement Mesa residents. Each of the trustees and the mayor had a chance to thumb through these at that meeting, but no one commented on the obvious questionable nature of these letters of “support” from supposed Parachute residents.
2. Yes, we will get to vote in November of 2016 whether to allow retail and/or other types of marijuana establishments in town. In the meantime, until that vote can be taken, the town board is continuing to accept applications (two more as of this date, with two more planned, we hear), and plans to act on them. How do we rectify this dilemma?
Someone from town hall goes to civic and business groups, telling them that we will have retail marijuana shops by the end of this year, but, if the town votes to overturn the marijuana decision by the board in November 2016 (and that is an “if”), that they (we assume that means the town board) will just “grandfather” the shops that are already here, and allow them to stay.
Need I say more as to why we want to try to recall some of the town board and replace them with someone who will listen to the people!
Trouble with drilling plans
I believe the article by Ryan Hoffman (9/24/15 Post Independent) on the Planning Commission Hearing on drilling in the residential community of Battlement Mesa missed important points.
Questions were raised that should be answered. First, why did the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission approve the villages of Willow Ridge, Stone Ridge and Valley View if they knew it would become an industrial site with gas wells drilled very close to them?
Second, why not ask for a comprehensive drilling and pipeline plan? Currently Ursa’s plan is for five well pads hosting 194 wells in a residential community. However, only two well pads and a pipeline application are being reviewed. The current application concerns only approximately one third of them. The location of the other three well pads and pipelines were not shared at the hearing. The occupations, as they are called, could and are planned to go on for years. Battlement Mesa is not an industrial area; it is a residential one.
Finally, this is not a question of the virtue of oil and gas or any particular operator. It is a question of why the Planning Commission approved those residential villages if they were aware of future impacts. Most Battlement Mesa residents were not aware of them, and had been told that there would be no drilling in their community. The technology does exist to extract the minerals from outside the Public Unit Development. Ursa’s drilling is unable to do this. Should this be Battlement Mesa’s problem or Ursa’s?
It seems irresponsible to allow for industrial activity with unknown impacts to go on for an unknown number of years.
Questions for GarCo Planning Commission
As a homeowner in Battlement Mesa, I attended the recent meeting of Garfield Community Planning Commission to hear the application for Ursa oil and gas to drill 52 gas wells within the planned unit development of Battlement Mesa in phase one. The commissioners stated in the meeting that they were charged with the task of balancing the needs of homeowners with the needs of mineral rights owners. Further, their mission statement says that they exist to “… promote the quality of life for the citizens of Garfield County.”
For three hours on tour with the gas company in Battlement Mesa, and four more hours in the public meeting, all of the homeowners affected were not allowed to ask any questions. Ursa and the development director were allowed to talk for hours, and the development commission asked them questions, but the homeowners whose lives and property values will surely be compromised had to be polite and silent. In the name of fairness, I think it is imperative that the development commission answer some vital questions for Garfield County.
Why are you allowing the potential drilling of 94 gas wells within the residential PUD of Battlement Mesa with no time limit whatsoever?
Why are you considering only phase one without demanding a comprehensive plan?
If you knew that Exxon had mineral rights dating from1979, why did you approve plans for three 100 percent residential developments (Willow Creek, Stone Ridge and Valley View) within a few hundred feet of a designated multiple-well drilling site?
If you stand for fairness in our county, why are you refusing to hold hearings in our town, but instead insist that our citizens collectively travel over 4,000 miles to attend your hearing in Glenwood when we have all the facilities to have this hearing in Battlement Mesa?
We really need answers to these vital questions when the future of our community is at stake.
Battlement Mesa outrage
I moved to Battlement Mesa for the beautiful views, the fresh air, and the quiet serenity of the surrounding mountains. As a new homeowner, there were things I didn’t know — like the fact that the planners who approved building the Villages in Battlement are now recommending drilling sites right in our residential community.
Small communities offer opportunities to participate in local government, right? I recently attended the site tour (or sales presentation) Ursa hosted for Garfield planning commissioners. Surprisingly, only Ursa’s representatives or the commissioners were allowed to speak. We visited a proposed site for a drilling pad for 28 wells. It is just down the hill from my home. I’ll be able to watch, hear and smell the entire operation from my office window, perhaps for years to come. So much for the beautiful views, fresh air, and mountain serenity.
The next night was the five-hour meeting of the planning commissioners. After 90 minutes summarizing Ursa’s application for in-town drilling, and 90 minutes for Ursa speeches (mostly sales pitches), Garfield County citizens were finally allowed to speak. Each got three minutes to quickly voice concerns. While the commissioners did broach questions and comments to Ursa, they were mute to our concerns. They did, however, note when each speaker’s time was up. Ursa was allowed to react to our comments, but we could not respond to theirs. Well, so much for participatory government.
Fred Jarman, community development director, delineated the differences between rights of homeowners (aka “surface owners”) and mineral lessees. Who do you think has the greater input into community development: mineral lessees, or “surface owners?” Yup, mineral lessees. Mr. Jarman advocated far more for Ursa than for the community he is developing. Here’s a news flash: Battlement Mesa is considered an “experiment” for establishing the feasibility of drilling, fracking, pipeline installation and pumping gas from within communities. This is outrageous. Please join me in exposing the dangers of this audacious affront to our community. Get Ursa’s drilling outside our residential area.
Battlement concerns dismissed
The current struggle in Battlement Mesa involves a new dimension that is being felt in other Colorado communities.
An oil and gas operator wishes to drill within close proximity to residential homes. Immediately, issues involving health, safety and well-being arise. The well-being is primarily involved with “nuisances.” Nuisances involve noise, odors, fumes, vibration, lights, dust and flaring. But there are the other effects such as damaged infrastructure, property values and crime.
Health and safety involves toxic vapors of chemicals, hydrocarbons/volatile organic compounds (VOCs)/hydrogen sulfide, particulates, fires, explosions, blowouts, pipeline failures, transport spills, traffic hazards and evacuation to catastrophic accident spread. In most of these issues, one of the most important practical solutions is mitigation of the threats to health, safety and well-being by increased distance from the drill sites to homes.
Other communities have negotiated this distance with operators because the technology has advanced to accommodate further offset drilling, but here in Battlement, it has been dismissed. So far, the only reason seems to be the added cost, as other explanations appear to be very questionable. There are already sites built that could be used to drill to the remaining gas resources, but the operator is looking at five new sites, through the middle of Battlement, that allow shorter drilling reach (less cost) with lesser equipment (smaller rigs).
The operator has not given a comprehensive plan for the entire project nor submitted adequate mitigations and safety needs to address concerns of residents of Battlement.
These were some of the shortcomings to the application for special use permitting that Battlement citizens addressed in the first Garfield County Planning Commission meeting.
A dream — minus gas wells
When we purchased a home in Battlement Mesa, it was marketed as the Colorado dream for retirees, a community that offered rolling hills, majestic views and serenity. We were shown a topographical map depicting BM Co.’s vision for future development. That map and vision did not depict gas wells.
We purchased a home with covenants that claimed to protect us from noise, lights, noxious odors and obnoxious neighbors. Now we are told those covenants apply to us, but not to the open space or neighboring gas wells proposed 700 feet away. Isn’t that analogous to telling me I can’t have a hazardous waste dump in my front yard but my neighbor can?
Gas wells have no place in a “planned” residential community. Approval of this special use permit will subject each resident to an increased risk of fire, toxic odors or some other devastating industrial accident such as those reported nearly weekly in our local newspapers.
Why is Ursa’s profit-and-loss statement more important than our health, our safety, our community, our investment?
The Planning Commission and our county commissioners need to do what is right — to stand up for the rights of the residents of Battlement Mesa and ensure that the promises made to us are kept, that the covenants protecting our villages are kept and the promise of the Colorado dream is kept by denying this permit to drill in the Planned Unit Development. Our lives matter. Our safety matters. Our health matters. Our community matters.
Nuisance equals proposal rejection
The Garfield County Planning Commission is to vote Oct. 28 on whether to allow a two- to possibly five-year industrial nuisance to begin operations within the boundaries of Battlement Mesa neighborhoods. The nuisance is Ursa Resources’ proposal to construct and operate two pads now (with 53 wells drilled under our homes) leading to a future total of five pads.
This totals 190-plus wells drilled under our homes and a connecting pipeline within the Planned Unit Development of Battlement Mesa and our residential neighborhoods. That’s three pads within residential neighborhoods and two pads at Battlement Mesa golf course. The pipeline would be located within mere yards of many homes and, if it were not for a property line fence, in their back yards. Battlement Mesa is a Garfield County unincorporated residential community, not a city or town. We have only the county Planning Commission and the Garfield County commissioners to protect the peace and sanctity of our residential neighborhoods.
Garfield County officials have already stated for the record, in their own official documents (Exhibit L – Oil and Gas Liaison Report) that these drilling activities “can cause significant nuisance impacts to nearby residents.” Drilling in our residential neighborhoods is a clear and obvious nuisance. It will cause significant and troubling impacts of noise and vibration pollution, light pollution and air pollution causing years of possible health issues for the hundreds of elderly and retired residents who reside, most importantly, within 450 to 900 yards from the drill pad sites. Beyond that distance, there would also be notable and observable incidents of the above-noted nuisances affecting thousands of our residents. These health issues would be hostilely prevalent and relevant during the two to five years of drilling and would likely linger in our impinged bodies for years thereafter, if not forever.
Current policy states nuisance equals proposal rejection.
Living in fear of the county community development director’s recommendation to approve the proposal, I admonish and beg the planning commissioners to vote no.
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