Battlement Mesa residents speak out

Battlement Mesa winter quotationWith the holidays upon them almost immediately after the GarCo Commissioners approved Ursa’s special use permits to drill 53 wells on 2 well pads, plus 2.5 miles of pipelines inside the Battlement Mesa PUD, residents barely had time to process the news much less react to it. During the past three weeks however residents have begun to speak out, so let’s hear what they have to say.

First off on December 29, KDNK aired January Jones’ interview with Dave Devanney of Battlement Concerned Citizens, and Leslie Robinson chair of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance. In this comprehensive, in-depth interview Dave and Leslie were given the opportunity to speak openly about many issues that were not necessarily made public before now.

Two points that heretofore have not been emphasized nearly enough came out in the interview:

  1. The Battlement Mesa residents have been more than fair to Ursa throughout this process. Much has been made in the media about Ursa bending over backwards. Battlement residents’ basic human rights are getting trampled on and not a single shot has been fired.
  2. If this can happen to Battlement Mesa residents, it can happen to anyone in the state of Colorado, especially if you live in Garfield County. So you’d better pay attention.

Do not miss this interview—it’s that good! Click on the link below.

Battlement Mesa Citizen Groups Respond to Drilling Approval

In December, Garfield County Commissioners approved natural gas drilling in the residential neighborhood of Battlement Mesa. KDNK’s January Jones spoke with Leslie Robinson from the Grand Valley Citizen’s Alliance and Dave Devanney from Battlement Mesa Concerned Citizens, who have been fighting to stop the drilling. They both say they are disappointed with the commissioners’ vote but that they aren’t surprised. They plan to take their opposition to the next level of state approval.

Click here to listen to the full interview.

The COGCC hearing for Ursa’s applications has not yet been scheduled. Battlement Mesa residents are hoping to persuade the COGCC to hold the hearing in Battlement Mesa.

Coming up on January 25, there will be a final COGCC hearing on task force recommendations No. 17 and No. 20 , in order to finalize the discussion and take closing arguments. No. 17 recommends collaboration between local governments, COGCC, and operators on siting of large-scale oil & gas facilities. No. 20 recommends that operators provide local governments with 5-year comprehensive drilling plans. Because both recommendations address residential drilling and fracking, Battlement Concerned Citizens and Grand Valley Citizens Alliance are planning to send representatives to speak out about the impacts of residential drilling and fracking.

Battlement Concerned Citizens have meetings scheduled for January 14 and January 28 at 7:00 p.m. at the Grand Valley Recreation Center in Battlement Mesa. The public is more than welcome to attend!

In case you missed it, Bob Arrington cut to the chase in his excellent post, The testimony that fell on deaf ears, and showed us how Ursa could in fact drill from outside the PUD.

An interesting discussion has erupted at the Post Independent. It all started with a letter-to-the-editor from Michelle Smith who has the wordsy title of President-of-the-Colorado-Chapter-of-the-National-Association-of-Royalty-Owners. In her letter Praise for Battlement decision, Smith said, among other things:

… The commission did its homework on the oil and gas issues, striking an appropriate balance between the surface owner concerns and the need to develop our state’s valuable natural resources. Ursa has diligently worked at both the state and local level to establish development criteria that will minimize surface disruption, including agreement to over 70 conditions imposed at the county level.

Respecting the real property rights of the mineral owners and the leasehold operators can be difficult for regulatory bodies, especially over the vocal objection of citizens concerned primarily with surface impacts.

The Piceance Basin has long been known as a resource-rich area, and the entire Battlement Mesa community originally was established to house people involved in the natural resources industry …

As you can well imagine, Smith’s cheerleading so far from the stadium (Elbert County) did not sit well with the Battlement folks, especially the four women who wrote LTEs in response.

Mary Ellen Denomy let us know that Smith gets money from mineral rights

…For 30 years, she has been a landman for the oil and gas industry. This means that she earns money by taking a piece of the income from the actual mineral owners.

She actually lives in Elbert County, and you may have seen her on television touting her organic goat farm. She has no wells drilled on her farm, and I sure would not purchase any “organic” goats from her if she had …

Sandra Getter also took Smith to task directly in her letter: Human rights over mineral rights

Michelle Smith’s letter shows that she has not kept up with Battlement Mesa’s drilling issue. We have never denied the mineral rights owner (mainly Exxon) from extracting the gas beneath our community. Most of it is being extracted from outside the boundaries of our PUD due to the advanced technology of directional drilling and fracking …

… If Ursa would be willing to use a different rig and drill up to a mile from a well pad, there would be no reason for its proposal of well pads within our boundaries. Battlement Mesa Co. has gone into the agreement with them because they own the surface rights of their undeveloped land within our PUD. With today’s gas prices, the agreement seems suspect to us …

This week Sandy Mochary asked, Who gets protection?

… Who should be protecting the citizens of Battlement Mesa if not the county commissioners? But I see where John Stroud wrote on Sept. 4, 2015, “Garfield County commissioners earlier this summer also reiterated their opposition to the use of Four Mile Road as a haul route to get a drilling rig and other equipment to and from the well site.”

Doesn’t Commissioner Jankovsky have a stake in not having oil and gas trucks using the road to “his” Sunlight Mountain Resort? It seems to me that the county commissioners protected Jankovsky’s interests, but not ours. Two commissioners are up for re-election …

Hey, Sandy, I don’t know if you caught the brief paragraph in the PI article this week, On White River Forest, Thompson Divide leases, GarCo commissioners side with gas industry:

.. The county’s comments do reiterate the commissioners’ position that Four Mile Road is not to be considered as a haul route to access any leases that are developed, and that access should be from the Divide Creek side …

In other words they told the BLM not to cancel any leases in the White River National Forest – drill baby drill – but the operators can’t use Four Mile Road. So you called that right.

In her letter Battlement Mesa background, Eleanor Nelson referenced a PI reader poll and cleared up one of the big misconceptions about what residents did and didn’t know.

A recent Post Independent poll indicated that 91 percent of the 1,400 respondents felt that the Garfield County commissioners should not have approved gas drilling in Battlement Mesa …

… Many of us bought our properties without knowledge of the existence of a Surface Use Agreement between the developer and the mineral rights’ owner that identified locations of future drill pad sites. We were unaware because the agreement had not been recorded in county records nor disclosed to us until many years later. Who would buy a lot at a premium price knowing that the potential for mineral extraction at some future date within such close proximity to your home site was possible? If the document had been ethically disclosed, many of us would have bought elsewhere.

Perhaps the developer is devoid of a moral compass. Fortunately, the respondents of the Post Independent poll are not. As the saying goes, “Just because you can, doesn’t mean you should.”

Bill and Sue deWinter say that the GarCo Commissioners showed Disrespect for Battlement residents. You remember the deWinters from the  Aspen Public Radio two-part series that aired last month.

My wife and I moved from Glenwood Springs to Battlement Mesa in 1994. We are extremely disappointed in the Board of County Commissioners’ approval of special use permits allowing Ursa Resources to drill gas wells within the subdivision. The BOCC approval shows total disrespect and disregard for the residents of Battlement Mesa, most of whom purchased homes in a “covenant-protected community” without notice of the number of gas wells agreed to by the developer of the PUD. The surface use agreements allowing for more than one well per drill site were neither recorded, nor were details disclosed.

During the BOCC site visit, the commissioners showed no interest in asking probative questions of Ursa as to the concerns of residents. The attending Battlement Mesa residents were not allowed to speak or ask questions. The commissioners appeared to be uninterested and seemed to want to finish with the site visit as soon as possible …

All of the above are excerpts from the LTEs, click on the links to read the full text of the letters.

In other news, this week in “Welled” County of all places sanity prevailed —

Greeley Planning Commission denies planned west Greeley oil, gas wells

Some threatened to leave town.

Others talked of the dangers of mixing heavy truck traffic from a highly industrial oil and gas facility with newly licensed teens driving to and from school along 71st Avenue.

Still others talked reputation. Greeley may have once been known as the stinky town, but now, some said, it’s the fracking town people and businesses would increasingly avoid if the city allowed a 22-well project in their west Greeley neighborhood.

However they put it, the main message Tuesday from the roughly 100 residents to the Greeley Planning Commission was they did not want an Extraction Oil and Gas facility — even with a planned 1,000-foot setback, twice the minimum state distance — near their homes …

And their voices were heard.

… After about two hours of testimony against the project, the Greeley Planning Commission agreed, denying Extraction’s project on a 6-0 vote.

“This location is inappropriate for the application being presented,” said planning commission member Eddie Mirick. “It would be very detrimental to the community in and around the area, who have lived there a long time, enjoy their homes and environment, and contribute greatly to the city and have for years in many ways” …

If only John Martin, Mike Samson, and Tom Jankovsky had the courage of the Greeley Planning Commissioners.

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