5,000 more bites of the apple

battlement mesa let's not frack up

For those of you who follow the Battlement Mesa saga, there is lots of news this week so let’s get to it.

Beginning with a showdown in Glenwood Springs between Ursa and Battlement Mesa, coming up next month and brought to you by the COGCC. Read COGCC is coming to GWS in July.

This next article is a must read. Be sure to click through.

Battlement Mesa drilling hearing moved closer to home

State oil and gas regulators plan to hold their next meeting in Glenwood Springs, which means an expected hearing on Ursa Resources’ proposal to drill in Battlement Mesa will be held close to home for residents living there.

In addition, a Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission official is considering whether citizen groups will be granted intervenor status for the hearing, meaning they can present evidence and cross-examine witnesses like other parties rather than just making public comments.

Ursa opposes the intervenor status request. And the decision to hold the July hearing in Glenwood was a surprise to the company, after the COGCC previously had planned to hold its July meeting in Sterling.

“We don’t understand why it was moved,” said Don Simpson, Ursa’s vice president of business development.

The venue change will come as the agency is scheduled to have three new commissioners at its July meeting. The terms of Richard Alward of Grand Junction and two other commissioners, DeAnn Craig and Thomas Compton, expire this month and Gov. John Hickenlooper will be naming replacements for them. Simpson questions having three commissioners attend their first meeting in Glenwood, which due to its location is likely to attract more opponents to Ursa’s proposal.

“They’re going to get misinformation from the activists and they’re going to get outright lies from the activists, basically,” Simpson said.

“They asked for a public hearing on this application,” COGCC director Matt Lepore said of Ursa. “We’re going to hold a public hearing on it” …

Okay, here’s an update. On June 22, intervening status was indeed granted to Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Battlement Concerned Citizens. More on that later.

What is important to note here is that Don Simpson, an Ursa VP, called the “activists” liars. The majority of people that commented during the public hearings with the Garfield County Commissioners last December were residents of Battlement Mesa. I’d like to see Ursa’s watch list of who they consider to be an activist.

But we have a lot of ground to cover so let’s move on.

… Meanwhile, attorney Matt Sura on Thursday argued before a COGCC hearing officer that the groups Battlement Concerned Citizens and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance should have intervenor status should a hearing occur.

“Certainly they have standing and real concerns about their rights to live safely within Battlement Mesa without having to be forced to live next to an industrial area,” Sura said in an interview.

Simpson said residents were provided unlimited time to comment and bring up issues during Garfield County’s review and approval of Ursa’s proposal.

Simpson said of Ursa’s opposition to the citizen activists’ request, “We just think they’re not a party that should qualify as an intervenor, that’s all.”

Dave Devanney with Battlement Concerned Citizens said he wasn’t surprised by that opposition by Ursa.

“Obviously we citizens are just a bunch of crazies who don’t know what we’re talking out, is my interpretation” of Ursa’s position, Devanney said.

He said that position stands in contrast to the company’s continuing profession of wanting to be good neighbors to Battlement Mesa residents.

Said Simpson, “We’ve already been good neighbors and it’s gotten us nowhere.”

“Those (issues) were addressed and we’ve gotten nowhere, so how many more bites of the apple do they need to get?” he said …

bite of appleLet’s see. As of 2014, the population of Battlement Mesa was 4,846. So let’s just make it an even 5,000 bites of the apple. Yup. They need 5,000 more bites of the apple. I hope the residents of Battlement Mesa show up at COGCC meeting in July with bags and boxes and baskets of apples with a bite taken out of each one.

As for Simpson’s complaint that being “good neighbors” has “gotten us nowhere,” their permits were approved by the county. What are they whining about?

… Simpson said that Kathleen Staks, a state Department of Natural Resources official, said during an energy forum in Rifle this year that the new rules should make the state process smoother when companies have gone through a local process first.

“It has not gone that way,” he said.

Lepore said that over time the COGCC will get better at coordinating the state and local review processes for proposals that fall under the new rule to eliminate duplication. But he said Ursa’s mindset has been that it already went through a big county process, so it presumably has done everything needed for the state process.

“No, you haven’t,” Lepore said …

So there you go. Simpson is whining because Ursa has to follow the rules.

But, as Dave Devanney pointed out: “This is an operator that does not follow the rules and these are the people who are going to be drilling inside our community, so you can understand our concerns and you can understand why we want to be intervening in this hearing.”

Devanney’s right. Ursa is also on the Enforcement Hearing Docket for the July meeting.

… In another development, the COGCC in July also is scheduled to consider approving a $20,625 fine for alleged odor violations at three locations near Battlement Mesa that prompted complaints from some residents in December. A COGCC investigation found issues such as a condensate tank hatch left in an open position during a fluid transfer to storage tanks and a lack of equipment to control odors from storage tanks on one pad …

So there’s that …

As I mentioned above, intervening status was granted to Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Battlement Concerned Citizens on June 22.

Order Granting Permissive Intervention

Battlement group gets OK to participate at hearing

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission granted two citizen groups opposed to drilling proposals in Battlement Mesa the right to participate at a July hearing in Glenwood Springs.

The decision is a small victory for Battlement Concerned Citizens and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, the two citizen groups, and a defeat for Ursa Resources, the operator seeking approval of its plans to drill up to 53 wells within the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development.

“We applaud the COGCC for recognizing the right of impacted people to speak and provide testimony on a project that will drastically impact our lives for many years to come,” Dave Devanney, chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens, said in a press release …

The Post Independent left out the part of Devanney’s statement where he added, “Maybe that is not how they do things in Texas, where Ursa is based, but it’s good to know in Colorado fairness can prevail.”

That cuts right to the core of why Simpson and Ursa are so PO’d about this process. This is NOT how they do things in Texas. The Texas Railroad Commission “regulates” oil & gas development. The word “railroad” says it all. Ursa is used to getting their way.

A statement from Don Simpson, vice president of business development for Ursa, said Ursa respects “the COGCC’s process, as well as the right of the local community to have input into that process” …

Well not according to what he said in the Daily Sentinel last Saturday (see above). He called the residents “activists” and liars. He said the county approvals should streamline the COGCC process. He was hopping mad.

… In its order granting intervenor status, the COGCC hearing officer dismissed Ursa’s arguments, including its claim that COGCC staff, which Ursa argued is an adverse party, could speak for the citizen groups based on comments submitted.

“Commission staff will be representing its own interests, which do not coincide with the interest of BCC and GVCA,” the hearing officer stated in the order.

“Fundamental fairness dictates that BCC and GVCA be allowed to participate in the hearing. Ursa acknowledges that residents of Battlement Mesa will be affected by its operations, including those that live more than 1,000 feet away from the two proposed pads. … It is in the public interest for the commission to hear all sides before deciding whether to approve or deny the Ursa applications.”

Assertions by Ursa that allowing the groups to participate would equate to allowing “politics to trump reality” are “groundless and frivolous,” the hearing officer concluded.

How amusing that Ursa’s argument actually used the word “trump.” We’re definitely getting “Trumped” by Ursa.

And the hearing officer called their argument “groundless and frivolous” which reminds me of “ridiculous,” the word Simpson used to describe Initiative No. 78. It’s funny how a few choice words can level the playing field.

Simpson, in the statement sent Thursday, pointed to Ursa’s outreach efforts since it acquired the assets.

“It’s important to note that we’ve been committed to gathering input from the Battlement Mesa Community since we began operating in the area in 2013. Much of that input has been incorporated into the COGCC permit application, as well as the already approved Garfield County permit applications.”

Again with the whining!

We don’t understand what these people want.

We’ve been good neighbors.

We allow them to complain.

We listen to their requests.

We’ve explained every detail of how we are going to frack up their community.

That ought to be good enough for them.

“How many more bites of the apple do they need?”

This many more —

  • They want full enforcement of the COGCC rules, including an alternative site location analysis which has never been provided.
  • They want to ensure the quality of drinking water, meaning no injection wells next to the water intake.
  • They want the highest air quality monitoring possible and to limit exposure to volatile organic compounds.
  • They want property owners rights respected and enforced.
  • They want to be able to sleep at night.
  • They want basic human rights.

In other news, on June 16, Dave Devanney and GVCA/BCC attorney Matt Sura attended the COGCC pre-hearing conference in Denver regarding the intervening request. They learned a couple more details:

  1. Ursa has withdrawn their application for an injection well at the B pad
  2. Ursa now plans to start drilling inside the PUD this year – assuming their permit applications are approved. They had previously reported that there would be no drilling in Battlement Mesa in 2016.

Finally, here’s a short video of Dave Devanney’s observation of the Grand Valley and Colorado River basin in western Garfield County on an EcoFlight.

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