Ursa offers residents a Sophie’s choice

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.

Local residents turned out in force for Ursa’s community meeting on Tuesday night in Battlement Mesa. They are concerned about the operator’s proposal to drill near Grand Valley High School which is located inside Parachute city limits, between I-70 and the Colorado River, and between Parachute and Battlement Mesa. Ursa plans to drill next to Grand Valley High School

Daily Sentinel: Ursa plan draws fire at meeting in GarCo

BATTLEMENT MESA — Area residents peppered Ursa Resources officials with questions on Tuesday about its local drilling plans, and particularly its proposal to drill for natural gas near Grand Valley High School in Parachute.

“Why would anybody approve that when it’s less than 700 feet from the school?” Sandy Getter, a retired teacher living in Battlement Mesa, asked during a regular community update meeting held by the company.

Several dozen residents turned out to hear about the company’s current drilling plans, which include drilling from two pads within the residential community of Battlement Mesa and the recently announced plan to drill near the high school …

Read Ursa’s Battlement Mesa permit applications are first test of new state rule

… To Getter’s question about the wisdom of the chosen location, he answered, “It’s why there’s a process and we’ll go through the process and they’ll vet it.”

He described the proposal as “super-preliminary.”

Said Doose, “We definitely understand it’s a tough place.”

Ursa says the proposed location would let it reach 22 well locations from one pad, and that most other alternative locations would put it closer to homes, with one alternative being in Battlement Mesa. It also says it hopes to limit operations when school is in session and will hydraulically fracture the wells from a remote location farther from the school.

In other words, the choice is whether the proposed new well pad is located at a site that puts more Battlement Mesa residents’ health and safety at risk, or whether they risk the health and safety of high school students. This is Ursa’s version of Sophie’s choice.

Some local residents, along with John Acha of New Castle, a Democrat challenging Republican incumbent John Martin for Garfield County commissioner, questioned Ursa extensively about things such as safety and odor issues, and the potential impacts of its operations on area property values. Doose pointed to a recent uptick in local real estate sales that he says reflect that the market has heated up again after the recession. But Getter worries that drilling near a school also could affect the real estate market.

“How many of the younger families will go somewhere else? They don’t want their kids to be in a situation like that,” Getter said after Tuesday’s meeting.

Among the issues raised by residents Tuesday was the adequacy of Ursa’s response to local odor complaints that have led the COGCC to accuse the company of violating its rules. The COGCC is scheduled to approve a $20,625 fine in the matter this month. Ursa says it has made operational changes in response to the odor concerns.

“We did change it right away. That’s how you improve and we improved,” Doose said.

But resident Karen Knupp, who had filed the odor complaints, said the problems went on for months, and Ursa didn’t do anything to fix things until she filed complaints. Ursa officials cited challenges getting parts to make the required changes.

Doose said he doesn’t think Ursa’s operations pose a danger to residents, and he pointed to the hundreds of wells companies already are operating around Battlement Mesa.

And there have no doubt been hundreds of health concerns and complaints from the residents. Perhaps Doose should talk to someone at the Oil and Gas Health Information and Response Program to get a true picture of how drilling has affected residents in Battlement Mesa and Parachute.

Ursa operations superintendent Matt Honeycutt cited the numerous tests the company conducts to monitor its operations and the company’s readiness to respond as issues arise.

“As many what-ifs as we can shove in a box are covered,” he said.

Rob Bleil, also of Ursa, pointed to the numerous conditions the company agreed to in its Garfield County review in order to reduce impacts from its two proposed pads in Battlement Mesa. He called them unprecedented.

“(These are) really state-of-the-art, top-level-mitigation best management practices for being in close proximity to a community,” he said.

“We have addressed every issue that we possibly can,” Martin, the county commissioner, said after the meeting about the Battlement Mesa proposal.

But he said the county still is concerned and wants to see the industry make continued improvements in its operations in the county. And in the case of Ursa’s proposal to drill near the school, it was only fair for the county to invoke its consultation right under the new rules, he said.

“We encourage everyone to be involved and follow the process,” he said.

While it’s true the county imposed numerous conditions on drilling inside the Battlement Mesa, Ursa is allowed to self-monitor. The county doesn’t do inspections. The COGCC doesn’t do regular inspections and in most cases they are not proactive, they do inspections after receiving complaints. In three and a half years of drilling in Garfield County, Ursa’s track record has been one of repeated violations and they don’t clean up their act unless someone actually files a complaint.

Battlement Mesa residents receive no support from Garfield County. They must conduct their own civilian monitoring and complaint program. They keep pollution logs, and take photos and videos of suspected violations. The county doesn’t even monitor air quality. Left to their own devices, residents have become air-quality guardians and formed a Bucket Brigade. The “bucket” is a canister with which brigade members take air samples, seal them up and ship them off to a certified lab for analysis.

It’s about damn time that John Martin, the folks at Ursa, and the residents of Garfield County stop and really listen to the residents of Battlement Mesa. Show some empathy. Put yourselves in their shoes.

How would you feel if your community was surrounded by monster well pads the size of football fields?

How would you like to get up every morning knowing that the air you breathe is polluted with toxic chemicals?

How would you feel if you, or your spouse, or your child became sick?

Do you try to find a way live with the noise, odors, and pollution that even Ursa and the county admit are inevitable impacts, or do you flee, and risk losing the equity in your home?

On top of all that, how would you feel knowing soon there will be two more monster pads and a pipeline built even closer to your home?

No one should be forced to live this way. Not in Garfield County. Not in Colorado. Not anywhere.

**********

7-14-16 Post Independent: Ursa hoping for decision on Battlement drilling plans

A decision by state regulators regarding at least one of two applications to drill in Battlement Mesa could be coming in the next two weeks, according to Ursa Resources, the operator seeking approval of the applications.

The statement came during a community meeting Tuesday in Battlement Mesa, where some of the more than 70 people in attendance voiced continued concerns over plans to drill in the community of nearly 5,000 people, as well as opposition to a different proposal for a well pad within 700 feet of Grand Valley High School.

“We expect (the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission) to be making a decision, one way or the other, in the next two weeks,” said Rob Bleil, regulatory and environmental manager for Ursa.

COGCC would not verify the claim Wednesday.

“COGCC continues its review but can’t confirm any timetable,” Todd Hartman, communications director for the Department of Resources, said in an email.

Don Simpson, vice president of business development, clarified on Wednesday that Ursa is hopeful a decision will be made regarding the proposed D pad, since applications for that pad were submitted first. Still, there is not guarantee when a decision could be made.

“Yes, we hope it happens in the next two week — it may not,” Simpson said …

… Although it’s unclear when COGCC will act, it’s clear Ursa feels confident about some of the lingering issues, said Dave Devanney, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens, one of the groups opposed to the plans.

“I suspect (COGCC) will do the best they feel they can, under the circumstances, to try and protect the health, safety and welfare of the citizens of Battlement Mesa, but at the end of the day I suspect it will be approved and we will become the policemen,” Devanney said.

At Tuesday’s meeting, Ursa officials stated they have been working with COGCC to come up with an improved plan for drilling in the community. Specifically, Ursa redesigned its B pad and moved storage tanks to the other side of the pad‚ adding another 300 feet of distance between the storage tanks and the nearest homes.

“(That is) one example of how all of us can come together and make something a better project,” said Matt Honeycutt, operations superintendent with Ursa.

Bleil said some of the remaining conditions of approval being negotiated by the operator and COGCC pertain to odor and noise monitoring …

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