New rule applies to Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permits

battlement mesa let's not frack up

A group of Battlement Mesa supporters showed up at the regular COGCC meeting on Monday to urge the staff via the Commissioners to force consideration of other locations and more mitigation before approving Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permit applications. During public comments, COGCC Executive Director Matt Lepore stated that the new task force rules apply to all pending applications at the time of the rulemaking, including Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permit applications.

Last December, the Garfield County Commissioners unanimously approved Ursa’s permits for construction of two well pads to drill 53 wells, and an associated pipeline system inside the Battlement Mesa PUD. Those permit applications are now in the hands of the COGCC staff for deliberation. The public comment period ended February 16. The final hearing date has not yet been scheduled.

However on Monday, speakers took advantage of the public comments portion of a scheduled meeting to further state their case. They represented Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC), Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA), and Western Colorado Congress (WCC). Ursa VP Don Simpson also commented.

To listen to their comments click here: COGCC Commission Hearing – March 7, 2016 – Pt1
Advance the video to 1:18:00, for the 23-minute replay.

Doug Saxton (BCC) stated that the well pads should be located as far as possible from houses and apartment buildings. He also established that Battlement Mesa is the first test of the recent COGCC rulemaking, and that task force Recommendation No. 17 should be applied to Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permits and the two wells pads separately should be considered large UMA facilities. No. 17 requires the COGCC to define large scale facilities in an urban mitigation area (Large UMA Facility) as a trigger to require local government consultation.

COGCC Chair Thomas Compton consulted with Executive Director Lepore who confirmed that the decision had been made that the new rules apply to all pending applications, including Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permit applications. Lepore said staff will be meeting with Ursa in the next couple weeks.

Bob Arrington (BCC) presented his alternative site analysis. Click here to read his full comment. Here is an excerpt:

… As an Engineer, I do not like stating problems that do not have solutions; however, I have offered a solution to Ursa. See attachment of email exchange, copies of material given to Mr. Simpson, drill reaches at 650 and 600 as “Offset Reaches”, drill chart with reaches on pattern plot showing coverage to down hole bottoms, USGS map of potential basement faults, and mudslide inventory map. Packet as given to Mr. Simpson of Ursa with additional maps to alert him to other problems with copy of email exchanges.

In summary, Ursa could drill from outside the PUD and use existing pads to further mitigate the impacts on health, safety, welfare of Battlement residents. In doing so they would also eliminate a pipeline cluster cutting through the PUD as well. The pipelines are planned to go down a hillside, like the one that destroyed a WPX pipeline with a rain induced landslide, a short distance upstream …

Because Doug and Bob had the audacity to exceed the restrictive 3-minute comment rule, the COGCC Chair groused about “time limitations” and chastised the remaining speakers to be brief. Evidently the Commissioners feel their time is more valuable than to address the concerns of the citizens “in a manner consistent with the protection of public health, safety, and welfare,” as stated in the welcome statement on the COGCC website.

Leslie Robinson (GVCA) talked about the need for a Comprehensive Drilling Plan (CDP) in order for the residents to have some sort of time frame to understand how long they will have to put up with construction plus drilling and fracking operations on the proposed well pads.

Betsy Leonard (BCC) asked for requirements of “best available technology” and “maximum extent achievable” to address noise and emissions.

Emily Hornback (WCC) thanked the Commissioners and reiterated that this is the first test case of the rule addressing large UMA facilities.

Don Simpson (Ursa VP) brought up the 1982 resolution that established the Battlement Mesa PUD, and had originally outlined a plan for up to 15 well pads, eventually reduced to six or less. He touted the many meetings where residents were told that Ursa can’t drill horizontally in the Williams Formation so they can’t access the minerals from well pads outside the PUD. He rehashed the planning commission hearings that included hours of testimony and conditions of approval. Then there was the same process with the Garfield County Commissioners resulting in unanimous approval. Simpson implied that the speakers who preceded him were being disingenuous in their comments because none of them live within 1000 feet of the two proposed well pads. He added that Ursa does not believe Recommendation No. 17 should apply to their proposed well pads stating: “We don’t believe these two pads should be under the UMA.”

Simpson concluded by repeating all the above-board-Herculean efforts Ursa has made to come to the table in good faith and brotherhood and asked, “How many bites of the apple can they have?”

Since he was unable to respond to the question at the meeting, in an email to From the Styx, Bob Arrington answered, “Our bite!”

Regarding the 1982 PUD resolution Bob added, “Simpson didn’t mention that back then it was one well per pad and 40 acre spacing. And hydraulic fracturing wasn’t developed to the extent that it would be in later years.”

It should be noted that Simpson’s comments also well-exceeded the time limit but he was neither interrupted, like Doug and Bob, nor chastised like everyone else. Bob Arrington said, “It would appear they don’t want to hear from those whose interest stems from health, safety, and welfare.”

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