Facing public and governmental opposition, Battlement Mesa Company and Olson Associates withdrew their current application to create an injection well zone within the community at the Garfield County Planning Commission meeting Wednesday evening.
With the release of the community development staff report last week recommending denial and this week’s editorial in the Post Independent against the injection well, the applicants feared a complete rejection of the proposal and therefore asked Chairman Bob Fullerton for a continuance in order to make adjustments to the proposal and resubmit a revised application for future discussion. Fullerton granted the continuance and no public comment was heard on the controversial proposal.
“This is a victory for residents,” said Dave Devanney, co-chair of the Battlement Concerned Citizens. “It was clear that public opinion was against the idea of creating an injection well zone in our community, especially one so close to our drinking water supply. Although we may see this proposal resurface in another form, tonight residents of Battlement Mesa can take comfort knowing their water is safe— for now.”
“This action shows that the people of Garfield County can stand up to the oil and gas companies and have an effect,” said Leslie Robinson, chair of the Grand Valley Citizens’ Alliance. “Even people in support of natural gas development know that injection wells and wastewater disposal are dangerous. A line must be drawn somewhere and residents, the county, and the state made it clear Ursa had crossed it.”
Battlement Mesa residents expect that the proposal will be re-submitted after Battlement Mesa Company and Ursa make some adjustments. However, BCC and GVCA have made it clear in their comments to Garfield County that they will not accept injection wells anywhere in the PUD boundaries and are prepared to defend that position if another proposal is submitted.
Late last week the Garfield County Community Development staff released their report and recommended that the injection well zone application be denied for the following reasons:
- Application is not in general conformance with the Garfield County Comprehensive Plan.
- Application is not in the best interest of the health, safety, convenience, order, prosperity, and welfare of the citizens of Garfield County.
- Proposal will have unreasonable adverse effect on the surrounding area including the safety of the Battlement Mesa Metro District public water supply intake.
In a January 12th letter to Garfield County Senior Planner Glenn Hartmann, CDPHE environmental specialist Kent Kuster restated its opposition to proposed plans to locate an injection well in Battlement Mesa on the Colorado River.
According to an article in today’s Daily Sentinel:
On Tuesday, Kent Kuster, an environmental specialist for the health department, wrote to the county that in a recent meeting with Ursa representatives his agency was made aware of an alternative injection well location to the west of Ursa’s originally envisioned site. Kuster wrote that the potential location would “reduce the associated risk to the public water supply,” is more protective of that supply and may warrant further local discussion.
Representatives of Ursa Resources and Battlement Mesa Co. commented on their decision to revise their proposal:
Matt Honeycutt, Ursa’s operations superintendent, declined to say much Wednesday night about the revision in the injection well plans.
“Ultimately it’s to make a better project,” he said.
Don Simpson, Ursa’s vice president of business development, said earlier Wednesday, “We think we’ve come up with a better plan. We’re always looking at different locations, better locations.”
Eric Schmela, president of Battlement Mesa Co., which as the landowner is the applicant for the zoning change, said a number of considerations played into its decision to revise its proposal, from public input, to its own research and additional due diligence.
Also, reportedly planning commissioner Greg McKennis attempted to postpone “further consideration of the zoning application for 60 to 90 days to give Battlement Mesa residents a chance to fully learn what’s now being proposed and be able to better comment on it.”
“This is a big change and we have no idea what those impacts will be,” McKennis said. “It’s vital that that community … has more than a couple weeks to do what they need to do to review this.”
However the applicants did not agree to his suggestion.
As Battlement Mesa residents breathe a well-deserved sigh of relief and pause to regroup, all residents of Garfield County should heed the warning bell they are sounding. This is not over. Make no mistake. Ursa wants to put injection wells in Battlement Mesa. Battlement Mesa Company is planning to revise their injection well zone application and re-submit it at a future date.
If Ursa Resources and Battlement Mesa Company have their way and the injection well zone is approved by Garfield County they will be allowing ANY injection well – MANY injection wells. If this zoning change is approved it will set a precedent in Garfield County that will most certainly, based on the past voting record of the current county commissioners in favor of oil & gas over public health and safety, open the door for approval of more injection wells in residential communities AND on the Colorado River. As we well know, one injection well is never enough.
Devanney said to expect that the injection well zone application will be on the Planning Commission agenda for March 8.
For more information:
Daily Sentinel: Ursa withdraws rezoning request for injection well
Post Independent: Battlement injection well plan to be altered — activists call it a win
Aspen Public Radio: Water wars: Battlement Mesa residents fight injection well
Post Independent Editorial: Protect Battlement Mesa water, reject injection well