Ursa plans to drill next to Grand Valley High School

Ursa's proposed Lacy Park Pad is the yellow rectangle next to the slightly larger gray rectangle which is the Grand Valley High School in Parachute, CO.

Ursa’s proposed Lacy Park Pad is the yellow rectangle next to the slightly larger gray rectangle which is the Grand Valley High School in Parachute, CO.

** Updated 7/12/16 — Definition of large UMA and CO setbacks**

** Updated 7/8/16 — See Correction below **

On June 13, Ursa Resources notified Garfield County about their plans for a proposed well pad — Lacy Park Pad — where 22 wells will be drilled. The well pad facility will be built about 645 feet from Grand Valley High School in Parachute. Due to the number of wells to be drilled and the close proximity to the high school, the Lacy Park Pad is considered to be a large urban mitigation area facility, or UMA, under the new COGCC rules that were based on last year’s task force recommendations.

According to the new rule a large urban mitigation area facility, or UMA is defined as “any Oil and Gas Location proposed to be located in an Urban Mitigation Area and on which: (1) the operator proposes to drill 8 or more new wells; or (2) the cumulative new and existing on-site storage capacity for produced hydrocarbons exceeds 4,000 barrels.”

COGCC existing setbacks rules are:

  • “Designated Setback Location” shall mean any Oil and Gas location upon which any Well or Production Facility is or will be situated within, a Buffer Zone Setback (1,000 feet), or an Exception Zone Setback (500 feet), or within one thousand (1,000) feet of a High Occupancy Building Unit or a Designated Outside Activity Area, as referenced in Rule 604. The measurement for determining any Designated Setback Location shall be the shortest distance between any existing or proposed Well or Production Facility on the Oil and Gas Location and the nearest edge or corner of any Building Unit, nearest edge or corner of any High Occupancy Building Unit, or nearest boundary of any Designated Outside Activity Area. [2 CO ADC 404-1:100 – Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission]
  • “High Occupancy Building Unit” shall mean: any operating Public School as defined in § 22-7-703(4), C.R.S., Nonpublic School as defined in § 22-30.5-103.6(6.5), C.R.S., Nursing Facility as defined in § 25.5-4-103(14), C.R.S., Hospital, Life Care Institutions as defined in § 12-13-101, C.R.S., or Correctional Facility as defined in § 17-1-102(1.7), C.R.S., provided the facility or institution regularly serves 50 or more persons; or an operating Child Care Center as defined in § 26-6-102(1.5), C.R.S. [2 CO ADC 404-1:100 -Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission]

Even though Parachute is not an urban area, the close proximity to the high school and the number of wells to be drilled qualifies the Lacy Park Pad as an UMA. This proposed new well pad is in addition to the proposed B pad and D pad where over 50 wells will be drilled inside the Battlement Mesa PUD.

Hearings for those two well pads were originally scheduled during COGCC meetings in Glenwood Springs, July 18-20. However Ursa requested that the COGCC delay the hearings and their request was granted. The Battlement Mesa hearings will be held at the COGCC meeting, August 29-30, in Denver.

The COGCC rules on large UMAs also require operators to notify local governments and allow consultation on the projects 90 days prior to submitting forms to the COGCC. On June 27, the Garfield County Commissioners voted unanimously to act as consultants on Ursa’s Lacy Park Pad.

This is the first well pad facility to be located so close to a school in Garfield County. Ursa’s Frei Pad is located directly south of Coal Ridge High School east of Silt, but more than 1,000 feet from the school property.

Apparently speaking on behalf of Garfield County School District 16, Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said, “The school doesn’t have any rights to consulting [on the proposal] but they can work through us for consultation.”

Gee, that worked out so well for the Battlement Mesa folks having Garfield County on their side during the public hearings last December. The Commissioners gave Ursa everything they wanted.

*CORRECTION 7-8-16*

Initially I wrote: “Ursa’s proposed Lacy Park Pad is the first test of the new COGCC rule which was adopted in January this year. Even though Ursa’s B pad and D pad in Battlement Mesa fit the description of large UMAs, they will not be considered as such in the upcoming hearings because the new rule did not take effect until March 16, 2016, and Ursa submitted their applications in January.”

Because I bought into the PI spin even though I knew better.

Ursa well pad 700 feet from Grand Valley High offers 1st test of state rule

The proposal of a well pad within 700 feet of Grand Valley High School in Parachute recently led, in part, to Garfield County’s decision to consult in the siting process under new state rules established earlier this year.

The decision, to which county commissioners unanimously agreed on June 27, makes Garfield County the first, and at this point the only, local government to officially commit to participating in the consultation process approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in January.

But I didn’t find the reference until today.

During the COGCC meeting on March 7, 2016, 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 … ”

Local citizens and Garfield County did consult extensively on the proposals and the process was monitored closely by the state as they deliberated over the task force recommendations. That makes Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permit applications the first test of the state’s new rule.

However Ursa came through the grueling “local governmental” process with flying colors so no worries there.

Last week Weld County Commissioners unanimously approved Extraction O&G’s large UMA proposal with 24 wells that will be located 1300 feet from a middle school building but only 500 feet from the playground. Because the edge of the well pad will be 1300 feet from the school building, the project does not fall under the COGCC setback rules. The measurements are taken from the actual building, not the boundary of the property. Playgrounds don’t count. That’s how the game is played.

In the case of Grand Valley High School in Parachute, the edge of the Lacy Park Pad will be 675 feet away from the actual building, where hundreds of young teens breathe, learn, eat, and exercise in their various classrooms and athletic facilities for up to 8 hours or more per day. While it does not have the distinction of being the first test of the new state rule, it has the more devastating distinction of being the first large UMA facility — or even well pad — to be located so close to a school building in Garfield County. Certainly nothing in which anyone would take pride.

Ursa well pad 700 feet from Grand Valley High offers 1st test of state rule

The proposal of a well pad within 700 feet of Grand Valley High School in Parachute recently led, in part, to Garfield County’s decision to consult in the siting process under new state rules established earlier this year.

The decision, to which county commissioners unanimously agreed on June 27, makes Garfield County the first, and at this point the only, local government to officially commit to participating in the consultation process approved by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission in January.

The events here could provide some insight to regulators, local governments and operators, regarding an untested process intended to open dialogue between the parties earlier in the planning stages.

“All in all, we think this rule is (a) strong step in bringing local governments further into the process and we’ll welcome the chance to learn from these initial cases,” Todd Hartman, communications director for the Colorado Department of Natural Resources, said in an email …

Yes, it’s true. We’ve become accustomed to being state and industry lab rats. So what else is new?

Let’s make lab rats out of defenseless teens. They don’t have any rights.

Let’s ignore the Southwest Pennsylvania Environmental Health Project’s research on the Risks to School Children from oil & gas development near schools.

They could bring in researchers to do air monitoring and biomonitoring to see how long it takes for the kids’ bodies to become contaminated with BTEX like the residents in Pavillion, Wyoming.

… Garfield 16 Superintendent Ken Haptonstall is currently on vacation. He did not respond to a request for comments on the proposal.

Commissioners John Martin and Mike Samson also commented on the desire to ensure communication channels remain open throughout the process. As Martin noted, residents in the area want assurance that “we’re not abandoned. … We hope that our government is looking into this issue, and Ursa is really living up to what they say they will do. I don’t see a problem with that. I would accept that.”

Ursa has a track record of communicating with community members and stakeholders, Martin said. Nonetheless, the county should be included in the discussions and “take an active role in protecting both Ursa and our citizens” …

Notice how Martin put Ursa first in the sentence. From what does Ursa need protection? Battlement Mesa’s 5,000 bites of the apple?

…A subsection of the rule states that it “does not prescribe any particular form of consultation or local land use planning or approval process.”

The open-ended approach to the consultation process is a good thing, said Matt Sura, an attorney representing several citizen groups advocating against Ursa’s proposals in the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development.

“It will be interesting to see how Garfield County utilizes this process,” said Sura, who also served on the governor’s oil and gas task force. “And I think for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the rules are vague to allow for that type of flexibility to have each local government choose how that consultation will work in that jurisdiction. … So it’s really going to be Garfield County driving that bus, rather than the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission … as it should” …

Of course therein lay the problem. In the five and a half years since these 3 commissioners — Martin, Jankovsky, and Samson — have been working together they have not seen an oil & gas facility they didn’t love. They have always placed oil & gas industry profits above public health, safety, and welfare. If history is any indication, Martin/Jankovsky/Samson will let Ursa drive the bus. Ursa will agree to toss in a paint job and a new muffler to make it look good, sound better, and not stink. But Ursa will still drive those unsuspecting Grand Valley HS students over the cliff. And the commissioners will have their political cover.

… Sura, noting that the Ursa proposal is much closer to a school than the one in Weld County, shared similar concerns regarding the site in Garfield County.

“I have two kids that are going to school, and I would not want an oil and gas facility within 1,000 feet of their school, because it’s a health and safety concern,” he said

Simpson refrained from predicting what the response from residents in the broader Parachute-Battlement Mesa area might be, but he said there will be a good deal of discussion.

“We’re very cognizant of the school and safety,” he said. “And we’re going to do everything we can to make it a good operation, with as little impact as possible.”

Simpson pointed to the project’s use of a temporary completions facility approximately 3,000 feet west of the actual well pad — well outside the 1,000 feet urban mitigation area boundary — as one example of preliminary efforts to mitigate impacts.

A document, which Ursa provided to the county, stating the rationale for the location concluded other options were unfeasible after initial discussion with residents, the community, the high school and the town of Parachute.

The document does state that the scheduling of drilling and completions will be done to minimize concerns when school is in session …

Remote fracking? Three thousand feet? Give me a break. That will just spread the toxic emissions across a much broader area. Engulf the air around the school from two directions. You can see on the map above the Grand Valley High School is located in the river valley between I-70 and the Colorado River. I can tell you because I live in the lowland in Silt that during drilling and fracking, the toxic clouds used to hang along the Colorado River Valley, as they do in Parachute these days.

We’re not just talking about a gas well next to the high school. We’re talking about a UMA, a large multi-well monster pad that will encompass an area nearly as large as the school building with tanks, separators, a combustor and pipelines.

For Simpson to imply that Ursa can minimize the impacts with the mere scheduling of drilling and fracking is an insult to our collective consciousness.

Evidently the Garfield County FLIR tour has slipped his mind. Twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, ALL oil & gas facilities emit methane and a toxic soup of chemicals including BTEX, ethylene and many, many more. That is not a theory. That is proven fact.

So don’t be telling us that you can minimize the impact through scheduling. No you can’t. We’re not stupid.

In this Earthworks video you will see a massive well pad facility — a large UMA by today’s new standards — next to North Ridge High School in Greeley, Colorado. In the aforementioned Weld — Welled — County. The FLIR video shows emissions from a tank on the right. The black cloud that emerges from the center is the result of a process called “unloading,” where liquids that have built up in the well are brought to the surface and pumped into tanks. As you can see in the video, along with the liquids comes a massive black cloud of toxic emissions. During the unloading process is also when many spills occur.

 

Why in the name of everything decent would anyone allow a facility like this to be built next to a school?

These Earthworks FLIR videos show emissions from Ursa’s low NOX burners

 

Garfield County FLIR Tour

Citizens Empowerment Project

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6 Comments on “Ursa plans to drill next to Grand Valley High School”

  1. Broxi Thomas Says:

    This is the first I have heard about this, and the LUMA rule. So, did I miss this in an earlier article, i.e. Post, Citizens, or local Battlement News? Is anyone protesting from the school, i.e. teachers, students, admin staff? It’s not just the students that are exposed, but every person in that facility and close-by homeowner’s.

    How is that O&G drilling/fracking (whatever it is known to be) can be outlawed in some eastern US states and even in some countries? Yet, with all our protests (include the Divide), the NEW RULES, along with your articulate and well-informed posted letters are not propagating more action to stop this from happening?

    What are we doing wrong that the COGCC does not support the rules that are written to protect and support us against close-by drilling pads?

    No wonder environment activists use a strong arm approach. It gets the oligarchs to pay attention to the voices of the people — it is a threat to their wealth and bottom line profit margin. Focus needs to be put on renewable energy – period. It’s going to happen, and I prefer it to be sooner than later.

  2. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    No you didn’t miss anything. The news is just coming out now. While school is out. And everyone is on vacation. And no one is paying much attention.

  3. Broxi Thomas Says:

    So is there no way to stop it…possibly with a legal injunction?

  4. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Just remember what you all are going through in BM. And you have organizations and legal representation. These are HS school kids. Like I said, they have no rights.
    There are ways to stop it. Parents should start by pulling their kids out of the school in protest. However not one O&G facility has ever been stopped in Gasfield County. Look at what they did in Welled County last week. Hundreds of people voiced their protest and the commissioners essentially told them to frack off. So-ooo …

  5. Bob Arrington Says:

    There is a posted road going into this area, but Google Earth shows 3 homes in the area and the Ursa pad goes right up on two. They may not be occupied or belong to a single owner that has given permission. My opinion is Ursa is putting this out there to showcase how bad an alternate site can be. Their B&V pad is just as bad, but was located in before the new rules. This site using longer reaches could do these wells. The other part is they could use the spot they show remote fracking and reach these well down holes.
    Where the are showing Lacy pad, an explosion on the site could blow out windows on the high school.

  6. Peggy Tibbetts Says:

    Ursa’s version of Sophie’s choice.

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