The Garfield County Commissioners voted Thursday 3 to 0 to approve three special use permits to drill 53 natural gas wells on two pads and an associated pipeline in the community of Battlement Mesa.
“We are obviously disappointed in the final decision of the County Commissioners. It has been stated in the staff documents and in the Planning and Zoning Commission permit that the granting of this permit will cause a nuisance to the residents of Battlement Mesa. Many conditions of approval have been applied, but they do not eliminate the impact on the community. We still believe that the best decision for the community is to deny this permit and that it is impossible to mitigate a bad location,” said Dave Devanney, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens.
“However, the 27 conditions of approval that have been attached to this permits are setting a higher bar for the next round of negotiations about residential drilling, both here in Battlement Mesa and in other neighborhoods who are facing large scale oil and gas development across the state. The residents of Battlement Mesa who have attended countless hours of meetings over the years have worked hard to gain these protections. We are grateful to the Commissioners for taking our suggested changes to the conditions of the approval seriously. But with the approval, citizens will still be left policing the oil and gas industry in Battlement Mesa. ” he concluded.
Commissioner Mike Sampson made sure to complement the work of Battlement Concerned Citizens, especially Devanney, in organizing concerned residents and helping them to voice their concerns. Many of BCC’s recommendations about air quality monitoring, complaint systems, dust impacts and noise were adopted.
All the way up to the final vote, BCC leader and certified engineer Bob Arrington continued to assert that Ursa could access these minerals outside of the community boundaries. “The best and most effective mitigation to drilling hazards is distance. I am still convinced if Ursa would spend the money to use their best equipment, they can reach the minerals from outside the Battlement boundaries,” he concluded after presenting the Commissioners with several examples of other operators who have managed to achieve higher drilling angles that Ursa says they can use to access the minerals.
“The deal isn’t quite done yet. Ursa has announced that they have submitted both of their applications for B and D pads to the state as of this week. So no break for us, Battlement Concerned Citizens and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance will get right to work examining the state permits and preparing our comments as soon as they are available,” said Leslie Robinson, chair of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.
“We also have to finish our testimony before the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission about new rules governing drilling in residential areas. Ursa says they have already complied with any new rules we expect to see from the COGCC, and it may be that the conditions of approval on this permit are stronger than most state rules. If so, we hope the hard work of all these concerned citizens in Garfield County for over 6 years can help inform the state rulemaking process,” Robinson concluded.
Here are the news articles and my comments, which are not a reflection of the position of Western Colorado Congress, Grand Valley Citizens or Battlement Concerned Citizens.
Let me just say I agree with Bob Arrington. Ursa contends that they would never have put themselves through this special use permitting process if they could have avoided it by drilling outside the PUD to access the gas. I believe it boils down to the special use permitting process, while arduous, was in the long run cheaper than drilling outside the PUD.
Daily Sentinel: Battlement drilling plan wins approval
Garfield commission OKs 50 well pads in community
… “I want to see it work and benefit the citizens and not have it be a nuisance for the citizens, is my concern,” Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said before voting, and after working through a number of conditions of approval with Ursa Resources and the group Battlement Concerned Citizens Thursday morning.
That group’s co-chair, Dave Devanney, expressed disappointment in the county’s vote in a news release. He reiterated the group’s position that the best thing would be to keep drilling out of the residential community because of the inability to eliminate the nuisance and impacts of drilling …
… Ursa’s proposal still faces another regulatory hurdle as it turns to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission for permit approvals. Both Battlement Concerned Citizens and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance plan to submit comments on those permit applications. Leslie Robinson, chair of GVCA, said in the groups’ news release that GVCA also will finish testimony before the COGCC on new rules the agency is considering concerning large-scale oil and gas operations in residential areas.
“Ursa says they have already complied with any new rules we expect to see from the COGCC, and it may be that the conditions of approval on this permit are stronger than most state rules. If so, we hope the hard work of all these concerned citizens in Garfield County for over six years can help inform the state rulemaking process,” Robinson said …
… Jankovsky said he considered how he would feel if drilling were proposed where he lives. Pointing to the numerous residents who have talked of odors, nosebleeds, headaches and other issues they blame on Ursa operations just outside Battlement Mesa, he said he’s not sensitive to odors himself, but his wife is, and can suffer headaches as a result.
“I understand the concern that’s there from this community,” said Jankovsky.
But he said there will be air-pollution testing on the pads. He also thinks Ursa will meet the noise parameters set out for its operations under the approval. As for residents’ concerns about impacts on property values, he said his daughter lives less than two blocks from a well pad on the Front Range and home values there are still stable.
He said he expects a lot from Ursa, and noted that the approvals are for the pads to be drilled, hydraulically fractured and producing within three years.
“There will be some nuisance, temporary nuisance, yet if we can get there and you guys can do this right we’re there with a pad with ‘Christmas trees’ on it,” he said, using the industry nickname for the equipment that sits atop existing wells …
Christmas trees and nicknames? That’s just perverted. Please. Spare us your phony goodwill.
… “This discussion has to deal with drilling within the … Battlement Mesa PUD,” Jankovsky said. “But it also has to deal with property rights and state laws, and is this request compatible with existing uses … all those things have been in play.”
All three commissioners thanked residents and community organizations for their involvement in the process. Without their participation, the county likely would not have set the “stringent” conditions that it ultimately approved, Jankovsky said.
Those include a requirement that all of phase one be completed within three years from the start of construction.
Still, commissioners recognized that some people would be disappointed with their decision. The few opponents who were in attendance Thursday were among those who had hoped for a different outcome.
“I see three years of nuisances,” said Dave Devanney, chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, a citizen group that lobbied the county to deny the applications. “I see three years of being the police force of industrial operations in our residential community.”
The decision was disappointing, but the conditions of approval agreed to by Ursa and the county represented the second best option, said Leslie Robinson, president of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance.
Phase one plans, which include a total of 52 natural gas wells and 2.5 miles of pipeline, still must go through the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
“We’re really halfway there,” said Rob Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa.
Previously, documents and statements indicated a total of 53 wells, however, further discussion Thursday clarified that one of the wells was a placeholder for a potential injection well in the future, which would require another special use permit from the county and additional permitting at the state level.
Ursa submitted its state applications in early December and expects a decision on them within 90 days. Assuming the remaining permits are granted, Bleil said he would not expect construction to start until July or August.