No August hearing on Ursa application
Ursa Resources was granted a continuation, for a third time, regarding a hearing for a proposed well pad in Battlement Mesa.
The request, which was made earlier this month and granted last week, is intended to provide Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff more time “to efficiently review the permits and obtain assistance from Ursa if necessary,” according to the order granting the continuation.
The decision was supported by COGCC staff and opposed by Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC), a citizen group fighting Ursa’s plan.
BCC was granted the ability to participate in the hearing, which Ursa requested — an unusual move by an operator — in April. At the time, an Ursa official said the move was intended to move the process along.
The operator has since requested three continuations. During that time, COGCC approved one pad, known as the D pad, but is still reviewing the other, known as the B pad.
“Seems to me that Ursa is keeping the pressure on the COGCC to approve the B pad application,” said Dave Devanney, co-chair of BCC.
To that point, the objection to the most recent continuation request is strange given that BCC stated that COGCC staff should have as much time as needed to review the applications, said Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa.
“It doesn’t make any sense for them to object,” Simpson said.
For BCC, though, this most recent continuation appears to be an attempt by Ursa to prevent the hearing and testimony from opposition groups, said Doug Saxton, the other co-chair of BCC.
COGCC can render a decision on an application prior to a scheduled hearing date — as it did in July when it approved Ursa’s 28-well D pad in Battlement Mesa.
“The thing that I guess is apparent is … if there were no continuation, a hearing would be much more likely,” Saxton said. “And we’ve always wanted there to be a hearing so we could formally present our case. But if a decision is made prior to October now, which seems pretty likely, there won’t necessarily be any hearing. It’s really a catch-22.”
Simpson contends the opposition groups have been granted plenty of opportunities to present their cases, including through the Garfield County special use permit process and through comments submitted to COGCC.
Opposition also was voiced by residents in July during a COGCC meeting in Glenwood Springs. The hearing on Ursa’s permits was at one point slated for that meeting prior to the second continuation.
“We went through the county planning commission and got approval. We went through the county commissioner hearings and got approval, and we’re working to, like I said, make sure all our mitigation measures adequately cover what needs to be covered,” Simpson said.
As for specific issues drawing additional scrutiny from COGCC, Simpson said he could not point to any.
“We’re just buttoning up the (best management practices) and the (conditions of approval).”
Speaking at the July COGCC meeting in Glenwood Springs, director Matt Lepore noted that the length of time it takes the agency to review permits has increased in recent years.
“The permits have simply become more complex as our rules have advanced, as drilling takes place in more challenging locations and so on. It takes us awhile,” Lepore said.
As has been the case throughout the process, Simpson said he would not try to predict when the COGCC might make a decision on the B pad.
Devanney said he has little hope that the outcome will be anything other than approval from the COGCC.
‘We were hopeful at one time that the COGCC might be able to just say no to an application such as this … in a residential community but it’s not looking like that right now,” he said, “and I suspect this application will get approved.”
The hearing is now scheduled for the Oct. 24-25 COGCC meeting.