Continued from Battlement Mesa residents ask “Where’s the CDP?”
Sandy Getter: Gas drilling — are you next?
In 1998 my husband and I bought land in Battlement Mesa from the Battlement Mesa Company and built a house. Now we’re finding out that the company didn’t register with Garfield County the potential drilling pads within the community until 1999. They continued selling property and homes without disclosing this.
There were no drilling rigs to be seen in 1998. That’s probably because up to 1995 Colorado had 160-acre well spacing. Then the Energy Department allowed one to be drilled per 80 acres. Next, in1997 our very own Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission approved one per 40 acres; in 1998 one per 20 acres; and in 2003 one per 10 acres. In 2007 multiple wells (now up to 25) from one well pad were approved.
With 40-acre spacing, well pads were kept in rural areas. Since the drilling boom in the 2000s, our community has been surrounded by drilling pads. Because we are a PUD (Planned Unit Development) and have strict covenants, the gas companies placed their pads just outside our perimeter and have been drilling multiple natural gas wells from each pad, accessing the minerals beneath us using directional drilling (up to 2,500 feet) and fracking.
Now they can access almost all of these minerals underneath us from outside our PUD. The proposed Phase I of Ursa and B. Mesa Co. would put well pads inside the PUD — one by the Colorado River and near our water intake and another within 1,000 feet of homes. There also would be a high-pressure gas line along the back yards of 22 homes. The next two phases would include two well pads along our award-winning golf course and one below a village of homes, plus an injection well.
With an oversupply of gas and low natural gas prices, why is this proposal on the table now? Are we the test case for all of Colorado? If they can come into a PUD, then they can drill anywhere. Will the COGCC and our county commissioners protect us and deny this special use permit?
Betsy A. Leonard: Natural gas drilling does not belong in residential areas
The B Pad, located off of County Road 307, known as River Bluff Road, is in Battlement Mesa. This pad will be near Battlement’s water and wastewater treatment plants.
During drilling and completions stages, activity will occur 24 hours a day. I am concerned that drilling will occur so close to our homes. The nearest dwelling is a mere 400 feet away. Ursa has stated that noise would not exceed 90 decibels. All homes within the 1,000-foot radius will hear this unrelenting, constant noise.
It is pointed out that lighting will be directed inward and downward and shaded away from residences. This is a welcomed action. However, with this pad being about 200 feet below the communities of Stone Ridge and Monument Creek, it is questionable how much light and sound can be mitigated. Pipelines will be installed instead of using trucks to haul water. This is a welcomed proposal. It is proposed that there will be minimal traffic congestion during the operation of this pad — heavy, 10,000-pound trucks are not welcome on residential streets. Ursa’s haul route is a heavily traveled corridor for residents going in and out of Battlement Mesa, and for folks moving around the community.
There will be no fire suppressing foam on site. Firefighting plans are inadequate.
I am concerned about the 25 wellheads, the bank of five separators, and the five tanks to hold produced water, two of which will hold condensate. I am wary of the common chemicals used in natural gas extraction: benzene, ethylbenzene, toluene, and xylenes. What happens if there is an accident? Both air and water pollution are concerns.
In short, natural gas drilling does not belong in residential neighborhoods.
Van Merritt: Nuisance equals proposal rejection
The Garfield County Planning Commission is to vote Oct. 28 on whether to allow a two- to possibly five-year industrial nuisance to begin operations within the boundaries of Battlement Mesa neighborhoods. The nuisance is Ursa Resources’ proposal to construct and operate two pads now (with 53 wells drilled under our homes) leading to a future total of five pads.
This totals 190-plus wells drilled under our homes and a connecting pipeline within the Planned Unit Development of Battlement Mesa and our residential neighborhoods. That’s three pads within residential neighborhoods and two pads at Battlement Mesa golf course. The pipeline would be located within mere yards of many homes and, if it were not for a property line fence, in their back yards. Battlement Mesa is a Garfield County unincorporated residential community, not a city or town. We have only the county Planning Commission and the Garfield County commissioners to protect the peace and sanctity of our residential neighborhoods.
Garfield County officials have already stated for the record, in their own official documents (Exhibit L – Oil and Gas Liaison Report) that these drilling activities “can cause significant nuisance impacts to nearby residents.” Drilling in our residential neighborhoods is a clear and obvious nuisance. It will cause significant and troubling impacts of noise and vibration pollution, light pollution and air pollution causing years of possible health issues for the hundreds of elderly and retired residents who reside, most importantly, within 450 to 900 yards from the drill pad sites. Beyond that distance, there would also be notable and observable incidents of the above-noted nuisances affecting thousands of our residents. These health issues would be hostilely prevalent and relevant during the two to five years of drilling and would likely linger in our impinged bodies for years thereafter, if not forever.
Current policy states nuisance equals proposal rejection.
Living in fear of the county community development director’s recommendation to approve the proposal, I admonish and beg the planning commissioners to vote no.
Lillian Wyant: A dream — minus gas wells
When we purchased a home in Battlement Mesa, it was marketed as the Colorado dream for retirees, a community that offered rolling hills, majestic views and serenity. We were shown a topographical map depicting BM Co.’s vision for future development. That map and vision did not depict gas wells.
We purchased a home with covenants that claimed to protect us from noise, lights, noxious odors and obnoxious neighbors. Now we are told those covenants apply to us, but not to the open space or neighboring gas wells proposed 700 feet away. Isn’t that analogous to telling me I can’t have a hazardous waste dump in my front yard but my neighbor can?
Gas wells have no place in a “planned” residential community. Approval of this special use permit will subject each resident to an increased risk of fire, toxic odors or some other devastating industrial accident such as those reported nearly weekly in our local newspapers.
Why is Ursa’s profit-and-loss statement more important than our health, our safety, our community, our investment?
The Planning Commission and our county commissioners need to do what is right — to stand up for the rights of the residents of Battlement Mesa and ensure that the promises made to us are kept, that the covenants protecting our villages are kept and the promise of the Colorado dream is kept by denying this permit to drill in the Planned Unit Development. Our lives matter. Our safety matters. Our health matters. Our community matters.
Kathlyn Kingdon: Battlement Mesa outrage
I moved to Battlement Mesa for the beautiful views, the fresh air, and the quiet serenity of the surrounding mountains. As a new homeowner, there were things I didn’t know — like the fact that the planners who approved building the Villages in Battlement are now recommending drilling sites right in our residential community.
Small communities offer opportunities to participate in local government, right? I recently attended the site tour (or sales presentation) Ursa hosted for Garfield planning commissioners. Surprisingly, only Ursa’s representatives or the commissioners were allowed to speak. We visited a proposed site for a drilling pad for 28 wells. It is just down the hill from my home. I’ll be able to watch, hear and smell the entire operation from my office window, perhaps for years to come. So much for the beautiful views, fresh air, and mountain serenity.
The next night was the five-hour meeting of the planning commissioners. After 90 minutes summarizing Ursa’s application for in-town drilling, and 90 minutes for Ursa speeches (mostly sales pitches), Garfield County citizens were finally allowed to speak. Each got three minutes to quickly voice concerns. While the commissioners did broach questions and comments to Ursa, they were mute to our concerns. They did, however, note when each speaker’s time was up. Ursa was allowed to react to our comments, but we could not respond to theirs. Well, so much for participatory government.
Fred Jarman, community development director, delineated the differences between rights of homeowners (aka “surface owners”) and mineral lessees. Who do you think has the greater input into community development: mineral lessees, or “surface owners?” Yup, mineral lessees. Mr. Jarman advocated far more for Ursa than for the community he is developing.
Here’s a news flash: Battlement Mesa is considered an “experiment” for establishing the feasibility of drilling, fracking, pipeline installation and pumping gas from within communities. This is outrageous. Please join me in exposing the dangers of this audacious affront to our community. Get Ursa’s drilling outside our residential area.
Bob Arrington: Battlement concerns dismissed
The current struggle in Battlement Mesa involves a new dimension that is being felt in other Colorado communities.
An oil and gas operator wishes to drill within close proximity to residential homes. Immediately, issues involving health, safety and well-being arise. The well-being is primarily involved with “nuisances.” Nuisances involve noise, odors, fumes, vibration, lights, dust and flaring. But there are the other effects such as damaged infrastructure, property values and crime.
Health and safety involves toxic vapors of chemicals, hydrocarbons/volatile organic compounds (VOCs)/hydrogen sulfide, particulates, fires, explosions, blowouts, pipeline failures, transport spills, traffic hazards and evacuation to catastrophic accident spread. In most of these issues, one of the most important practical solutions is mitigation of the threats to health, safety and well-being by increased distance from the drill sites to homes.
Other communities have negotiated this distance with operators because the technology has advanced to accommodate further offset drilling, but here in Battlement, it has been dismissed. So far, the only reason seems to be the added cost, as other explanations appear to be very questionable. There are already sites built that could be used to drill to the remaining gas resources, but the operator is looking at five new sites, through the middle of Battlement, that allow shorter drilling reach (less cost) with lesser equipment (smaller rigs).
The operator has not given a comprehensive plan for the entire project nor submitted adequate mitigations and safety needs to address concerns of residents of Battlement.
These were some of the shortcomings to the application for special use permitting that Battlement citizens addressed in the first Garfield County Planning Commission meeting.
Franci Candlin: Questions for GarCo Planning Commission
As a homeowner in Battlement Mesa, I attended the recent meeting of Garfield Community Planning Commission to hear the application for Ursa oil and gas to drill 52 gas wells within the planned unit development of Battlement Mesa in phase one. The commissioners stated in the meeting that they were charged with the task of balancing the needs of homeowners with the needs of mineral rights owners. Further, their mission statement says that they exist to “… promote the quality of life for the citizens of Garfield County.”
For three hours on tour with the gas company in Battlement Mesa, and four more hours in the public meeting, all of the homeowners affected were not allowed to ask any questions. Ursa and the development director were allowed to talk for hours, and the development commission asked them questions, but the homeowners whose lives and property values will surely be compromised had to be polite and silent.
In the name of fairness, I think it is imperative that the development commission answer some vital questions for Garfield County.
Why are you allowing the potential drilling of 94 gas wells within the residential PUD of Battlement Mesa with no time limit whatsoever?
Why are you considering only phase one without demanding a comprehensive plan?
If you knew that Exxon had mineral rights dating from 1979, why did you approve plans for three 100 percent residential developments (Willow Creek, Stone Ridge and Valley View) within a few hundred feet of a designated multiple-well drilling site?
If you stand for fairness in our county, why are you refusing to hold hearings in our town, but instead insist that our citizens collectively travel over 4,000 miles to attend your hearing in Glenwood when we have all the facilities to have this hearing in Battlement Mesa?
We really need answers to these vital questions when the future of our community is at stake.
Bernita Grove: Trouble with drilling plans
I believe the article by Ryan Hoffman (9/24/15) on the Planning Commission Hearing on drilling in the residential community of Battlement Mesa missed important points.
Questions were raised that should be answered. First, why did the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission approve the villages of Willow Ridge, Stone Ridge and Valley View if they knew it would become an industrial site with gas wells drilled very close to them?
Second, why not ask for a comprehensive drilling and pipeline plan? Currently Ursa’s plan is for five well pads hosting 194 wells in a residential community. However, only two well pads and a pipeline application are being reviewed. The current application concerns only approximately one third of them. The location of the other three well pads and pipelines were not shared at the hearing. The occupations, as they are called, could and are planned to go on for years. Battlement Mesa is not an industrial area; it is a residential one.
Finally, this is not a question of the virtue of oil and gas or any particular operator. It is a question of why the Planning Commission approved those residential villages if they were aware of future impacts. Most Battlement Mesa residents were not aware of them, and had been told that there would be no drilling in their community.
The technology does exist to extract the minerals from outside the Public Unit Development. Ursa’s drilling is unable to do this. Should this be Battlement Mesa’s problem or Ursa’s?
It seems irresponsible to allow for industrial activity with unknown impacts to go on for an unknown number of years.