Ursa hoping for decision on Battlement drilling plans | PostIndependent.com

Ursa hoping for decision on Battlement drilling plans

Ryan Hoffman
This well pad adjacent to the Battlement Mesa PUD is above the Colorado River Valley.
Randy Essex / Post Independent |

A decision by state regulators regarding at least one of two applications to drill in Battlement Mesa could be coming in the next two weeks, according to Ursa Resources, the operator seeking approval of the applications.

The statement came during a community meeting Tuesday in Battlement Mesa, where some of the more than 70 people in attendance voiced continued concerns over plans to drill in the community of nearly 5,000 people, as well as opposition to a different proposal for a well pad within 700 feet of Grand Valley High School.

“We expect (the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) to be making a decision, one way or the other, in the next two weeks,” said Rob Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa.

COGCC would not verify the claim Wednesday.

“COGCC continues its review but can’t confirm any timetable,” Todd Hartman, communications director for the Department of Resources, said in an email.

Don Simpson, vice president of business development, clarified on Wednesday that Ursa is hopeful a decision will be made regarding the proposed D pad, since applications for that pad were submitted first. Still, there is not guarantee when a decision could be made.

“Yes, we hope it happens in the next two week — it may not,” Simpson said.

Last week, Ursa was granted a continuation on a hearing regarding its plans to drill up to 53 wells in the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development. Prior to the continuation — the second one requested by Ursa — the hearing was slated for an upcoming COGCC meeting in Glenwood Springs.

While Ursa requested the hearing earlier this year, COGCC does not need a hearing to make a decision on the applications, and Ursa officials have said they would prefer to handle the matter in the standard review process. By requesting the hearing, several citizen groups opposed to the plans were able to seek the ability to participate in the hearing — a request that was granted in June.

Bleil reiterated the point that the citizen groups have stated COGCC should be given ample time to review the applications.

“And we said, ‘That’s no problem, we’ll give them more time in order to take a look at all the issues that are there,” he said.

Although it’s unclear when COGCC will act, it’s clear Ursa feels confident about some of the lingering issues, said Dave Devanney, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, one of the groups opposed to the plans.

“I suspect (COGCC) will do the best they feel they can, under the circumstances, to try and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Battlement Mesa, but at the end of the day I suspect it will be approved and we will become the policemen,” Devanney said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Ursa officials stated they have been working with COGCC to come up with an improved plan for drilling in the community. Specifically, Ursa redesigned its B pad and moved storage tanks to the other side of the pad‚ adding another 300 feet of distance between the storage tanks and the nearest homes.

“(That is) one example of how all of us can come together and make something a better project,” said Matt Honeycutt, operations superintendent with Ursa.

Bleil said some of the remaining conditions of approval being negotiated by the operator and COGCC pertain to odor and noise monitoring.

Despite Ursa’s claims, some in attendance stated concerns and skepticism ranging from the operator’s response to complaints, to the impact oil and gas development could have on property values.

John Doose, field land manager for Ursa, said the housing market appears to be recovering from the Great Recession, adding there have been a number of home purchased recently.

But Battlement Mesa resident Mary Anne Keller said she is not buying it.

“The value of the houses are going down, I don’t care what they say,” Keller said after the meeting. “I have a house that I spent $700,000 on. I’m sure if I put it on the market … what would I get for it? I means it’s ridiculous. I bought here. I came from New Jersey to buy here, to be in the community, and what do I have? I have gas wells all around me.”

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