Ursa postpones drilling plan near 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.

Ursa informed Garfield County by letter on Wednesday, the company has postponed plans to drill at the Lacy Park pad which is located about 700 feet from Grand Valley High School, and on the north bank of the Colorado River, between Parachute and Battlement Mesa.

In the letter Ursa cited the need for more time to plan the “absolute best project” as the reason for the postponement. However it’s no secret the plan has caused a public outcry among residents across the county, as well as students, faculty and staff of School District 16. Even the Garfield County Commissioners were concerned enough to ask to be included in the consultation process. Though it’s hard to say whether their intended purpose was to look out for the best interests of the public and the school district — or Ursa. It’s anybody’s guess.

Ursa says well pad near Parachute high school is not an “absolute best project”

For the time being, Ursa Resources will not move forward with a controversial proposal to drill a natural gas well pad within 700 feet of Parachute’s Grand Valley High School.

In a letter to Garfield School District 16 and Garfield County Wednesday, the operator stated its intent not to pursue permits for the pad so that Ursa can have more time to plan the “absolute best project” it can.

In consulting with both the county and school district, it became clear the proposal did not meet the “absolute best” criteria, however, that was not due to concerns over safety, health or environment, Don Simpson, Ursa’s vice president of business development, said after a community meeting in Battlement Mesa Wednesday evening …

I see. Ursa’s “absolute best” criteria has nothing to do with safety, health or environmental concerns. Perhaps we should consider this progress somehow. At least they finally admit what we’ve known all along. They don’t care about public health, safety or the environment. They don’t even consider those concerns in their drilling plans.

So what does Ursa care about?

… Ursa took representatives from both groups on tours of drilling and completion operations, as well as a visit to the proposed site near the high school.

Ultimately, the concerns revolved around impacts such as truck traffic, according to Simpson. Ursa had originally proposed a temporary completions facility approximately 3,000 feet west of the actual well pad, but those plans fell through.

Oh right. Truck traffic. Let’s put in another injection well. So transparent. They don’t even try to hide their motives anymore.

“…We said if we couldn’t get it across the finish line we wanted to re-evaluate this thing and figure out a better way to do it,” Simpson said.

Ursa will evaluate alternatives to try to drill out the pad on the property, which it purchased earlier this year. Although those possible alternatives are not yet known and the letter sent Wednesday morning sounded more like a postponement than a cancellation, Simpson did not rule out the possibility of forgoing drilling altogether at the site.

“Here’s the thing, if we can’t go ahead with … what we feel is a good project then we have to re-evaluate the project,” Simpson said. “We like to do only good projects” …

If Ursa’s evaluation of alternatives to drilling on the Lacy Park pad are anything like their evaluation of alternatives to drilling inside the Battlement Mesa PUD, there won’t be any alternatives. It’s all spin.

The news is cold comfort to Battlement Mesa residents already surrounded by close to a dozen well pads [see map below], and facing the reality of the construction of 2 new well pads plus a 2.5-mile pipeline as early as next year. Ursa also made “best project” promises and said they would listen to residents’ concerns as they plowed through the permitting process at the county and state levels. Yet in the end, when Ursa decided the residents had pushed too hard on the safety, health and environmental concerns, the company pressured the state to approve the permits in spite of the residents’ concerns.

The blue rectangles represent well pads surrounding Battlement Mesa. [Source: Bob Arrington]

The blue rectangles represent well pads surrounding Battlement Mesa. [Source: Bob Arrington]

The ongoing standoff in Battlement Mesa between the residents and Ursa (anyone who thinks this isn’t a standoff isn’t paying attention) is a case study for any other community confronted by threat of residential drilling. The negotiating process is play-acting on the part of industry and government. They go through the well-rehearsed motions and they do what they want anyway. The operators gladly agree to dozens of conditions of approval because it makes them, and the government officials look good. Besides the operators are allowed to self-monitor anyway. It’s not like they’re subject to rigorous inspections. There’s no risk involved in empty promises.

By the industry’s own admission, health, safety and the environment are not their concerns. So when faced with drilling in close proximity of your own backyard, the only way to protect your health and safety is to run for your lives.

The Daily Sentinel: Ursa holds off on plan to drill close to school

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