Last September, after nearly a decade of health assessments, public meetings, public hearings, comment periods, rallies and campaigns, the COGCC granted Ursa Resources the final permits necessary to drill 53 natural gas wells on two pads inside the Battlement Mesa PUD.
“This decision makes one thing very clear — the COGCC will never say no to operators, even if the location is obviously putting people at risk,” said Doug Saxton, co-chair of Battlement Concerned Citizens. “It seems like the COGCC interprets the rules that say pads need to be ‘as far as possible’ from homes to mean ‘as close as you want’.”
As they face a future of drill rigs in their neighborhoods, Battlement Mesa residents know their efforts have strengthened the position of all Colorado communities that want to restrict neighborhood drilling. They are proud of the 70 precedent-setting conditions of approval hammered out with both Garfield County and the COGCC. Light and noise stipulations, timing restrictions on drilling operations, air and water quality monitoring are just some of the conditions that should make these well pads, if not the safest, certainly the most monitored in Colorado. You can rest assured Battlement Mesa residents will be watching.
But the battle is never over. Battlement Mesa residents are subject to split estate rules because they don’t own the mineral rights. Battlement Mesa Partners (BMP) is the company that holds the surface use agreement for drilling. At the behest of Ursa Resources, BMP has asked Garfield County to change the language of Battlement Mesa’s founding PUD document to allow for oil and gas waste water injection wells within the community.
If Garfield County green lights this change Ursa will locate an injection well less than 300 feet from the Colorado River and immediately upstream from Battlement Mesa’s water intake.
In a letter to COGCC’s Matt Lepore on February 29, 2016, CDPHE oil & gas liaison Kent Kuster raised concerns about the location of a Class II injection well on the proposed B pad:
… URSA’s BMC B well pad includes a Class II injection well with six produced water storage tanks that the Department believes creates a significant contamination risk to the public water supply for Battlement Mesa …
In a second letter on March 16, Kuster stated that the CDPHE recommended denial of Ursa’s request for a variance because the B pad application “was submitted with substantially incorrect information that has affected the consultation by CDPHE that could provide additional protections to the public water supply.”
Battlement Mesa residents have vigorously objected to this injection well for the following reasons:
- The CDPHE has stated that Class II injection wells do not belong in residential areas, citing Kuster’s letters as evidence.
- There is no geologic reason for Ursa to place a toxic wastewater injection well so close to the community’s water intake. The company can locate the injection well elsewhere and use pipelines to move the wastewater.
- Injection wells are not connected to any property rights (mineral rights) issues. Injection wells are not tied to mineral rights.
- Ursa Resources and Battlement Mesa Partners are the only entities that benefit from the change the PUD to allow for injection wells.
- The creation of a new injection well zone in Battlement Mesa could open the door to an unknown number of toxic wastewater wells being allowed near the Colorado River and the community’s water supply.
- Storage of toxic wastewater next to a drinking water supply puts public health at risk and breaks covenants and the public trust between the community and Battlement Mesa Partners.
A recent 2.9 earthquake southwest of New Castle on Christmas night, caused concerns from Grand Valley Citizens Alliance and Battlement Concerned Citizens which were raised with the COGCC because of existing injection wells in the New Castle, Silt, and Battlement Mesa areas, including the new proposed Colorado River location.
COCGG engineering manager Stuart Ellsworth told the Daily Sentinel that four companies currently operate injection wells within about 6 miles of the epicenter of the Christmas quake, mostly to the southwest. He said all four are injecting wastewater at about 1,000 barrels per day and within specified pressures, adding that science suggests exceeding injection volume rates of 10,000 barrels per day is considered to be factors that could contribute to earthquakes. Colorado has about 350 wastewater disposal wells
The system calls for monitoring an area in the case of an earthquake of magnitude 2.5 or higher, and so the agency is monitoring the area of the Christmas quake, Ellsworth said.
But Leslie Robinson, chair of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance pointed out that citizens are also concerned an earthquake could produce cracks in well bore casings on both injections wells and producing wells, thus creating leaks or seeps that could take weeks and months to appear as happened with the Divide Creek seep.
Robinson summed up the prospect of an injection well in Battlement Mesa along the Colorado River this way: “First, the poor folks and families of Battlement Mesa will have to endure at least two working natural gas rigs drilling and fracking over 50 holes less than 1,000 feet from their doors. Second, the air quality will surely to go down and odor complaints up during these operations. Property values reflect the loss of quality of life. Now, residents may soon have to worry about their residential water safety, possible earthquakes, and toxic spills from surrounding injection wells. Again, only hundreds of feet from homes. What misery will Ursa and the Battlement Mesa Company inflict next? Dropping bombs?”
Help Battlement Mesa residents protect their drinking water and your Colorado River.
The county is now accepting comments on the application until January 26, 2017. The application will be heard by the Garfield Planning and Zoning Commission on February 8, 2017.
Send comments by January 26, 2017, to Planner Glen Hartmann at the Garfield County Community Development Department:
Attend the Planning Commission meeting and ask them to deny this permit.
February 8, 2017
Garfield County Community Development Dept
108 8th Street, Suite 401
Glenwood Springs, CO
Post Independent: Activists fight Battlement Mesa injection wells
Daily Sentinel: Zoning change sought to allow injection wells
Water is life. The Colorado River is our watershed. We are the Water Protectors. Take a stand.