The Ursa introductory session at the BOCC meeting this morning (11/13) was interesting. Ursa’s Vice President of Business Development Don Simpson gave a PowerPoint presentation overview of the company, including their management team. (Click here to read more about Ursa’s management team.) Denham Capital Management is their financier. They plan to open offices in Rifle and Denver. Final closing with Antero will happen in December. Most of the principals in the company came from Shell. Matt Steele the President and CEO worked for Shell and is from Wisconsin.
According to Simpson, Ursa pulled out of the Bakken (Montana and North Dakota) last year because they couldn’t compete with the “big boys.” They are a small company and had trouble getting and keeping supplier/supplies in the field because the bigger companies kept them all busy.
In other words, small operators were squeezed out, which may or may not have been the case. This article in the Durango Herald describes pipeline battles in the Bakken play: Durango firm steps into Bakken oil.
Don Simpson is very nice. Dave Strickland and Kirby Wynn (GarCo oil & gas liaison) were also present. There was another guy from Ursa but I can’t remember his name. He didn’t say anything. I give Simpson and Ursa a lot of credit for making this effort to introduce themselves and foster community relations. The BOCC offered up their meeting room for another meet-and-greet which has not yet been scheduled.
I asked ahead of time if I could be allowed to ask questions of Mr. Simpson. I was the first up. I have to paraphrase Simpson’s responses because I couldn’t write them down. You can watch it on the video replay here (the session was first up at 8:00 a.m.).
I was invited up to the table and seated next to, and face-to-face with Mr. Simpson. So it felt more like a discussion.
I said —
My name is Peggy Tibbetts. I live at 439 Orchard Avenue in Silt. I am not here as a representative of the town of Silt or any organization. I am here as a private citizen.
One year ago, Antero announced plans to develop the South Gravel Trend on the south side of the Colorado River, less than a mile from Silt. A CDP was drawn up but then it was pulled by Antero. Therefore I have to ask: Does Ursa plan to develop the South Gravel Trend, if so will you produce a CDP and in doing so will you include any and all stakeholders within a 20-mile radius of Silt, including the town of Silt and the RSPN Alliance?
Simpson’s response was vague. Maybe he wasn’t sure what a CDP (comprehensive development plan) is, or he purposely avoided the issue because they don’t plan on producing one, or he didn’t want to say. (In Colorado, companies are not required to produce a CDP, but if they do it has to be ratified by the COGCC.) Simpson said they are aware of the South Gravel Trend and yes, they interested in developing it but to what extent has not yet been determined.
I said —
Antero talked about up to 800 new wells.
Simpson raised his eyebrows and seemed taken aback. He said he didn’t know whether they would be developing it to that extent. They are still in the decision and planning process so the best he could do was to say that they will work with all the stakeholders through the process.
I said —
For several years Antero has held annual meetings with the town of Silt. These meetings have been very popular, drawing up to 150 people or more. Does Ursa plan to continue this tradition with the town of Silt?
Simpson said he appreciated knowing that and said town meetings are certainly something they would take into consideration in their planning process. He pointed out that Pam Woods (Town Administrator) was present in the room, from the town of Silt and they will be working closely with the town.
I said —
Then you should know that over the past couple years, Antero compiled an email contact list. If you could get Kevin Kilstrom to pass that list to Ursa, you might find it a helpful means of relaying information to local citizens and stakeholders. It would save some time and that way we won’t have to re-invent the wheel.
Simpson said he has not yet met Kevin Kilstrom, but he wrote it down and said he would definitely check into that.
I said —
Where is Ursa when it comes to compliance with the EPA’s new green completion requirements? Do you use methane-capturing technology or low-NOX flares? Will you install air quality monitors at each well pad?
Simpson didn’t respond directly. He said in Montana and North Dakota, Ursa was in compliance with all rules and regulations and would continue to do so.
I said —
I’m aware the industries have up to three years to meet the EPA requirements so I would ask where is Ursa in that process?
Simpson said he would have to defer to his COO (Steve Skinner who was not present) because he (Simpson) is more about the business side of things.
I said —
Finally, this is not a question. Over the past year we have seen a rapid decline in our air quality in Silt. We are desperately in need of air quality monitoring in Silt. In the spirit of being a good neighbor and in recognition that we all value public health and the environment, perhaps Ursa could work with the town of Silt to purchase and install an air quality monitor at the town hall.
I was not expecting a response and I didn’t get one, unless you consider stunned, uncomfortable silence a response. So I smiled, stood up, shook Simpson’s hand, thanked him and returned to my seat.
There was one other question from a Carbondale public citizen. He expressed concerns about water usage and asked if they use fresh water in their fracking process. Simpson said they did in Montana and North Dakota in the Bakken. Kirby Wynn interjected and explained that in Garfield County most of the wastewater is recycled and re-used due to extensive pipelines. He said some fresh water is still used but that amount has been greatly reduced over the past several years.
Which of course begs the question – what is “fresh water” in western Garfield County? In an effort to reduce truck traffic and recycle wastewater, the industries have built a network of underground pipelines which are neither regulated nor inspected. Broken, damaged, leaky pipelines leach frackwater and contaminate the groundwater, which flows into ditches and creeks, and eventually the Colorado River, Silt’s “fresh water” source. We and our daughter have water filtration systems in our homes, with RO for drinking water. But everyone in our family has been drinking bottled water since the summer of 2010.
The session then wrapped up quickly. As we walked out into the foyer, Strickland, Wynn, Simpson, and the other Ursa guy gathered. Silt TA Pam Woods was with them. She wore a badge/name tag, identifying herself. The group was evidently assembling to head off to a private meeting, in which it was clear Woods was included.
There was another public meeting/Ursa presentation this afternoon in Battlement Mesa, which I was unable to attend.