Battlement residents stated their case on home turf

bocc hearing 1-12-15-15

Tuesday’s BOCC hearing was held in Battlement Mesa and lasted a full day [Photo by Dave Devanney, Battlement Concerned Citizens]

According to the news reports, more than 150 people braved the slippery roads and wintry weather to attend the first of two public hearings for Ursa’s applications to drill in Battlement Mesa, on Tuesday morning in Battlement Mesa. I made the decision not to attend the hearings. Evidently the county doesn’t livestream their remote meetings. If you read my letter to the BOCC, you understand that this is an extremely emotional issue for me. I’m not fond of sobbing in public.

In October, I attended the rally for Battlement Mesa before the planning commission meeting. Shouting from the street corner felt empowering. I stayed for the first few minutes as the ridged gears of governmental procedures slogged forward and then I left. For me drilling in Battlement Mesa as a purely human issue. I know too many men, women, and children who are sick, or have died. I want to stomp my feet and scream at them: “Why can’t you see what’s happening to human health? No job, no county or city coffer is worth sacrificing human health!”

While we all believe that’s what the BOCC needs to hear, they have heard it before and it’s their cold dismissive attitudes that I can’t tolerate anymore. So I leave the reporting to others.

In an email last night, Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens reported that the meeting lasted from 9:15 a.m. to just past 5:00 p.m.

Devanney added, “All residents that wanted to had the opportunity to speak – with no time limit. It was very gratifying to hear your friends and neighbors asking the commissioners to deny the Ursa permit application and requesting even stricter mitigation measures than are being proposed.There were not many questions from the commissioners but at least they listened. It remains to be seen if any of it made an impression on them. We will just have to wait and see.”

Daily Sentinel: Ursa makes drilling case to GarCo commission

BATTLEMENT MESA — Ursa Resources, its supporters and concerned Battlement Mesa residents began making their cases Tuesday as Garfield County commissioners took up the company’s proposal to drill within the residential community.

“We’re not trying to stop drilling. We’re just trying to protect our homes and community and quality of life,” said Don Gray, one of the residents who spoke against Ursa’s proposals to drill 53 wells from two pads in the unincorporated development of several thousand people near Parachute …

… Battlement Mesa resident Stan Knupp has made his living in the oil and gas fields, but voiced frustration with persistent odors from existing Ursa operations outside the development.

“If they can’t control the odors now, a quarter- or half-mile away from us, how are they going to do it 700 feet way from our house?” Knupp asked …

Earthworks FLIR camera thermographer, Pete Dronkers was present at the hearing to show the Earthworks FLIR videos of emissions coming from Ursa oil & gas sites. However Commissioner John Martin decided that video presentations would be allowed from Ursa and county staff only but not from the public so Dronkers testified instead.

… But Pete Dronkers, who uses an infrared camera to look for leaks from oil and gas operations in his job with the group Earthworks, warned against allowing drilling near homes.

“Basically our experience has been everywhere we go we see emissions,” he said. “… I think it’s tragic, it’s very, very unhealthy to live this close to oil and gas sites, especially fracking sites.”

Dave Devanney had also attempted to show FLIR videos at the planning commission meeting in October. But Ursa’s attorney objected stating that the certification of the thermographer couldn’t be verified since he was not present. So Pete Dronkers made the journey to display his certification and present the videos. But as I said, once again they did not allow the FLIR videos to be shown in public. What are they afraid of?

These are the videos Dronkers would have shown.

Garfield County FLIR Tour: Ursa’s low NOx burners


Here is what emissions from a lox nox burner look like at close range with the FLIR gas finder.


article continued …

Jerry Sirus, who’s retired from the oil industry, worries about Ursa’s proposed gas pipeline in Battlement Mesa to support the proposed drilling, and about the possibility of leaks and how residents would be notified.

“Large-scale pipelines do not belong next to residential homes. Drilling in the (development) just is not acceptable,” he said.

The hearing on Ursa’s proposal continues before Garfield commissioners today. Ursa also would require approval by the COGCC before the drilling could begin.

**********

Please note the headline below is misleading. These hearings have always been on the schedule for 2 days. The fact that Tuesday’s hearing was continued is not news, it was the plan all along.

Post Independent: County continues hearing on Battlement drilling plan

BATTLEMENT MESA — A decision by Garfield County commissioners regarding Ursa Resources’ applications to drill within the Planned Unit Development (PUD) won’t come until Wednesday at the earliest, following a full day of comments Tuesday from opponents and supporters of the proposals …

… Before the start of public comments, Commissioner John Martin explained that Tuesday’s meeting was intended to allow for public comment, and that a decision would not be made during the meeting. When a decision will be made is at the discretion of the board, Martin added.

… More than 150 people attended and comments, both for and against the applications, continued for more than three hours Tuesday before the meeting closed …

… Opponents of the current proposal understand the benefits, economic and others, of the energy industry, said Don Gray, a Battlement Mesa resident who collected more than 400 petition signatures requesting commissioners to reject the applications.

“We’re not trying to stop drilling,” Gray said. “We’re just trying to protect our homes and our community and our quality of life.”

Pads already drilled directly outside the PUD have sparked health concerns, said Bonnie Smeltzer, a Battlement resident who lives within a quarter-mile of existing well pads outside of the PUD. Headaches, eye irritations and a nosebleed that Smeltzer said sent her to the emergency room are indicative of living in an industrial zone.

Ursa is always quick to respond and offer explanations, she added, but “explanations are not solutions.”

“Consider this,” Smeltzer said to the commissioners, “would you buy a house here and raise your family here in an industrial zone?”

The question was asked several more times as residents concerned about health impacts and losses in property value testified.

Rob Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa, said he could not remember participating in a longer and more thorough application process during his career than the current process. In addition to the more than 70 conditions of approval recommended by the Planning Commission, Bleil said Ursa has agreed to best management practices, including some pertaining to a non-binding health impact assessment by Colorado School of Public Health that the county commissioned in 2009 but was never completed.

Still, many residents called for commissioners to reject the applications.

“It’s pretty simple,” said Battlement resident Van Merritt. “There’s no business having a drilling rig in a residential area.”

Although the citizen group Battlement Concerned Citizens still opposes the proposal, additional conditions should be included to protect the health and welfare of residents if the applications are approved, said Doug Saxton, co-chair of the group.

Those include allowing for immediate inspections in the event of an emergency and requiring Ursa to submit a comprehensive drilling plan for in and around the PUD.

The two pads and pipeline being considered by Ursa are phase 1 in what will be a multi-phase plan to drill out the gas underneath the PUD …

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