Here’s your Battlement Mesa update —
The first GarCo planning & zoning commission meeting to address Ursa’s drilling application in Battlement Mesa PUD was held on September 23 (same day as the EPA emissions hearing in Denver). The meeting lasted for hours on end. Over 80 people attended. The good news is the hearing was continued to October 28, so time is on the residents’ side.
In an article in the Post Independent, published 2 days before the meeting, Ursa’s Don Simpson criticized the public meeting held on August 31, hosted by Battlement Concerned Citizens and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, as intending to “rile up” residents.
In particular, a meeting on Aug. 31 hosted by Battlement Concerned Citizens, which sent out mailers to every resident in Battlement Mesa, seemed to get a lot of attention, said Dave Devanney, chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens.
“People were unaware of what was going to happen, and they’re aware now,” Devanney said in reference to Ursa’s phase one plans, which call for two pads totaling 53 wells and an approximately 2.5-mile pipeline.
The heightened criticism carried into a community meeting hosted by Ursa Sept. 2. Several residents who had not attended four prior meetings hosted by Ursa were especially vocal — at times interrupting speakers.
The meeting hosted by Battlement Concerned Citizens was clearly intended to “rile up” residents, said Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa. As for the claim of increased awareness in the community, Simpson pointed to the previous meetings hosted by Ursa, which were advertised to Battlement Concerned Citizens members and other local organizations …
… Since those meetings, Devanney said residents who were previously unaware and uninvolved continue to express concern with the plans.
“There’s a number of people that are very motivated to get involved with the process now and attend hearings and give testimony and express their feelings and concerns,” he said.
I have news for the folks at Ursa, citizens exercising their right to free speech is guaranteed under the First Amendment. You see the industry is accustomed to conducting business in secret, behind closed doors, away from public scrutiny. When an operator does face public scrutiny they prefer to host meetings where they control the conversation and address the questions they are willing to answer.
Here are highlights from the planning & zoning commission meeting, according to the Post Independent:
After more than five hours of history, explanations, recommendations and a flurry of public comment largely condemning the project, the Garfield County Planning Commission moved Wednesday to continue its public hearing on plans by Ursa Resources to drill within the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development.
At the start of the meeting, Garfield County Planning Commission Chairman Bob Fullerton told the audience of more than 80 people that the commission would not close the public comment section until the board heard from everyone, and he kept his word. The public comment period was not closed until shortly after 11 p.m. Wednesday.
The commission had the option to either approve, disapprove or continue the hearing on Ursa’s applications for two well pads totaling 53 wells and an application for a 2.5 mile pipeline connecting the two pads and continuing in the PUD.
After a marathon of a meeting, the commission moved to continue the hearing until Oct. 28, in order to digest the abundance of information presented Wednesday. There will be no public comment at that meeting.
In considering the application, county staff has to consider both the legal rights of the mineral right owners as well as certain privileges and legal rights of property owners, said Fred Jarman, Garfield County community development director.
County staff recommended that the commission consider approving the application with a series of recommendations, largely connected to a non-binding health impact originally sponsored by the county when Antero held the lease for the mineral rights.
Among some of the more considerable recommendations to consider, Jarman said, is up and down gradient water monitoring wells at the B Pad, which is located approximately 400 feet from the Colorado River and approximately 615 feet from Battlement Mesa’s water intake system on the river. While the monitoring wells — which would allow for quicker detection of groundwater issues — is no small undertaking, the county believes it is important enough to merit conversation, Jarman explained.
Although the county defers to the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission for noise regulations, the county recommendations included a suggestion that Ursa confine its noise to 70 decibels during the completion stage — the stage that involves fracking. Typically the COGCC would allow 80 decibels during completion, but COGCC informed the county that if it requests 70 decibels during completion the state commission would honor that, Jarman said …
… David Ludlam, executive director for the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association, was one of the few who spoke in favor of the proposal. In the six years Ludlam has served in his role with the trade association, no operator has gone to the extent that Ursa has to engage the community, he said.
Ludlam also speculated that some in attendance were present to make a spectacle with hopes of drawing negative coverage from the “press corps.”
Oh right. Because drilling in peoples’ backyards is not enough negative press. The residents have to somehow convince the local newspaper that it’s not okay. And again with the First Amendment issues. Why so secretive? What do they have to hide?
You know what gets people riled up? This kind of crap!
OBTW, Dave-Ludlam-who-has-served-six-years-with-WSCOGA is mistaken in his assertion that “no operator has gone to the extent that Ursa has to engage the community.”
I guess he’s referring to the West Slope Way and not the front range, otherwise we’re talking Encana, Anadarko and Noble. But even so, if we are talking strictly west slope then Ludlam suffers from Antero amnesia. We don’t. After more than six months of grueling negotiations and endless public meetings regarding drilling on Silt Mesa, on April 22, 2011, Antero pulled out of negotiations with RSPN Alliance and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance thereby terminating the non-binding Rifle Silt New Castle Community Development Plan (CDP).
The history of the Rifle, Silt and New Castle Community Development Plan
But let’s not let Ludlam change the subject – or blow smoke up our butts.
Back to Battlement Mesa. Let’s hear from our friends and neighbors. In letters published in the PI, residents ask: “Where’s the comprehensive drilling plan?”
Good question. Maybe we should ask Dave Ludlam.
Beginning on September 30, the PI has published a steady stream of LTEs from residents. I have posted and will continue to post residents’ letters at LTEs from Battlement Mesa residents.