Since the drilling boom began around 2001, fracking has not occurred within residential neighborhoods in Garfield County. Hazardously close to communities and rural subdivisions – yes – but not inside heavily populated residential areas. That paradoxical distinction will soon vanish as Ursa Resources has submitted plans to drill 53 wells from two pads inside the Battlement Mesa PUD. Battlement Mesa is an unincorporated community with an estimated population of 4,500 human beings, about the same as New Castle.
ALL residents of Garfield County would do well to wake up and pay attention to the upcoming permitting process. This is precedent setting of the magnitude that should make the ground quake underneath everyone’s feet in this county. This is just the beginning …
According to GarCo community development director Fred Jarman, July 16 is the deadline for the county to determine whether Ursa’s application is up to snuff. Public hearings are expected to be scheduled about 45 days after acceptance of Ursa’s application.
Read it and weep people —
Daily Sentinel: Ursa plans drilling within community
By Dennis Webb
Ursa Resources has filed a proposal with Garfield County to drill 53 wells from two pads in the residential community near Parachute.
The proposal is expected to be the first phase of a drilling project in the community that could involve up to seven pads there, and comes as state regulators will consider task force recommendations on the issue of oil and gas development near urban areas.
Battlement Mesa is an unincorporated community of several thousand people, ranging from retirees to oil and gas workers. Recent efforts to drill there date back to 2009, when Antero Resources proposed drilling about 200 wells from 10 pads. Antero sold its area holdings to Ursa before doing any drilling there. As Antero had, Ursa has been drilling around the development’s boundaries but not within it.
Besides being subject to state approvals, drilling in Battlement Mesa requires a special-use permit from the county as part of the original county approval of the development.
“This is the moment we have been anticipating for many years,” Dave Devanney, chairman of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens, said in a news release, adding that “now is the time for Battlement Mesa residents to join with us to make our concerns known and do what we can to limit the potential harm from this proposal.”
Emily Hornback, a community organizer with the Western Colorado Congress community action alliance, said while there have been negotiations going on to make the impacts smaller, “it’s still going to be a lot of impacts for folks.”
Ursa official Don Simpson said the development originally had 14 identified pad locations, but that number has been reduced first by Antero and now by Ursa, which hopes it ultimately will need even fewer than seven pads. He expects Ursa will drill around the same number of wells there that Antero proposed.
It’s not about the number of well pads. Yes they are big. Yes they are ugly. But it’s about the number of wells drilled — 53 in phase one with more to come. Each well drilling/fracking operation causes cumulative emissions and impacts that affect the local residents’ health and safety – not to mention the environmental damage, air and water quality.
Noting Ursa’s drilling near the development, he added, “A lot of the concerns that people have been worried about really haven’t come to fruition. We’re a safe operator. We look at detail and we take care of things.”
One concern for citizen groups is where one of the two proposed initial pads would sit in relation to Battlement Mesa’s community water intake on the Colorado River. Simpson said the pad near the river would be downstream of the intake.
Whew — that’s a relief. They won’t contaminate the Battlement Mesa residents’ water supply, just the 3.5 million people downstream.
Hornback questions the proposal’s timing. A task force unanimously recommended new state rules to better protect communities from large-scale oil and gas facilities, and she wonders if Ursa is trying to get its project approved before the rules are adopted by the state.
Matt Sura, an attorney who was on the task force, said it recommended consultation by local government before pads are chosen in such circumstances, something that didn’t occur with Ursa’s proposal. He said one Battlement Mesa neighborhood would be about 800 feet from both pads. “This is a perfect example of why the task [force] was created and why these rules are so needed,” he said.
“Just the scale of the operations that are being proposed is something that I don’t think anyone would want to see in their neighborhood. It’s going to be months of drilling and hydraulic fracturing and then a lifetime of truck traffic going to and from those industrial sites.”
See image above. That is Ursa’s massive multi-well fracking pad across the Colorado River from Silt. It covers an area at least the size of a football field. It is situated on a ridge and is impossible to get camera-close without trespassing. There will be two of those monstrosities springing up in Battlement Mesa neighborhoods.
Simpson said the timing of Ursa’s submittal has nothing to do with the new rules the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will consider, and he doesn’t know if they’ll apply.
“I can’t control the rules or when they take effect,” he said.
Ursa will continue holding meetings to educate residents about various aspects of the oil and gas development process, Simpson said. Ursa hopes to do all of its drilling in Battlement Mesa within several years, but Simpson said if residents keep fighting the company and delaying things, that will drag out the process as opposed to Ursa “getting in there, doing the development and getting out.”
Post Independent: Ursa submits plans to drill in Battlement PUD
Ursa Resources has submitted preliminary documents with Garfield County calling for 53 natural gas wells within the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development.
Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa, confirmed the plans Friday, saying, “it’s really preliminary.”
While the county has yet to determine the completeness of the application, which is needed before the plans are released for public review, the submittal is a significant step — and an undesirable one for some residents — in a process dating back years.
When Ursa purchased the assets of Antero Resources in the Piceance Basin in 2012, there were 10 identified well pad locations within the PUD. Ursa has reduced that number to seven, which Simpson said is pretty much the maximum number of pads it would consider within the PUD.
“We’re continuing to look for other locations outside the PUD,” he added.
Repeating long-held objections, Dave Devanney, chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens group, said many residents do not want to see a single pad within the PUD.
“This is a very industrial operation and we question where that kind of operation is compatible with communities that have schools and homes and hospitals,” he said.
The land use application for the two pads was submitted June 17, less than a week before the county commissioners approved Ursa’s application for an injection well roughly 1.5 miles south of Battlement Mesa.
While Ursa has the legal right to drill in the area, Devanney worries the operation could have negative impacts on the Battlement Mesa community, including a possible exodus by residents who do not want to live in such close proximity to an oil and gas operation.
“They don’t feel, whether justified or not, that the risk to their health is worth it and they’ve stated that they’re going to leave the community,” Devanney said.
For its part, Ursa will continue to engage the community to address concerns, Simpson said, adding that more than 70 people turned out for an Ursa community event several weeks ago.
Devanney said Battlement Concerned Citizens will continue to work with the state to try and strengthen regulations related to drilling sites in close proximity to residential areas.
The county has until July 16 to determine whether or not Ursa’s application is complete, according to Fred Jarman, director of Garfield County Community Development. He hopes to start reviewing the application Monday.
Public hearings will likely be scheduled at least 45 days from the date the application is determined to be complete.