Letter from community groups opposes Battlement injection well zone

This article was published in today’s Post Independent: Reject Battlement injection well, activists urge

Below is the full text of the letter opposing the rezoning to allow injection wells in Battlement Mesa PUD, from Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC), Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA) and Western Colorado Congress (WCC) to Garfield County Planning Commission. The hearing on the rezoning was rescheduled last month.  The hearing is now scheduled for:

March 8, 2017
6:00 p.m.
Garfield County Community Development Dept
108 8th Street, Suite 401
Glenwood Springs, CO

**********

February 28, 2017

To: Garfield County Planning Commission
c/o Glenn Hartmann, Senior Planner, Garfield County Community Development
Via email: ghartmann@garfield-county.com

RE: BCC/GVCA/WCC Comments on Battlement Mesa PUD Text Amendment — Injection Wells (PUAA-11-16-8497) — Limited to Ursa’s A Pad

Dear Glenn Hartmann and the Garfield County Planning Commission,

Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC), Grand Valley Citizens Alliance (GVCA) and Western Colorado Congress (WCC) (collectively, “the community groups”) submit these additional comments on Battlement Mesa Company’s proposal to create a new zone district within the Battlement Mesa PUD to allow for oil and gas waste water injection wells. These comments are meant to supplement the comments submitted on January 27th.

Battlement Mesa Company’s (and Ursa Resources’) updated proposal is not an improvement over its earlier proposal. By limiting the proposed injection site to the new “A Pad,” Battlement Mesa Company and Ursa will be in direct violation of state law which requires wells to be located at least 500 feet from a home. Battlement Mesa Company’s (Ursa’s) proposal needlessly endangers air quality. It also imposes an oil and gas waste disposal facility on a low income community — in possible violation of federal environmental justice laws.

As has been stated by the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, injection wells should not be located in urban mitigation areas (neighborhoods). Ursa should be directed to take its proposal back to the drawing board and find a location for its injection well that is at least 1,000 feet from a home and outside the Battlement Mesa PUD.

DISCUSSION

The requirements of the proposal, in part, are stated in the 1978 Garfield County Land Use Resolution as follows [1978 Garfield County Land Use Resolution, 4.12.03]:

  1. The modification must be consistent with the efficient development and preservation of the entire PUD;
  2. The modification must not affect in a substantially adverse manner the public interest; and
  3. The modification must not be granted solely to confer a special benefit upon any person.

It is clear that the proposed text amendment does not meet these requirements.

The modification has not been shown to be consistent with the efficient development of the PUD. How does siting an injection well benefit the development of the PUD? The applicant has not stated how the proposed text amendment will help maintain the requirement of 25% of the PUD to be in common open space [1978 Garfield County Land Use Resolution, 4.07.09].

The modification will certainly adversely affect the public interest. The proposed modification would result in an injection well and tanks that are closer to homes than allowed by state rules. It would also harm local air quality in the lower income community of Tamarisk Village.
Ursa’s application does not list any benefits the general public or PUD residents will receive from the proposed PUD amendment. This zoning change is made for the sole benefit and convenience of Ursa Resources.

1) The proposed text amendment is not consistent with the efficient development and preservation of the entire PUD;

Battlement Mesa residents bought or rented their homes with an expectation that the area would remain residential. These reasonable expectations are now being challenged by a proposal to allow the new industrial use of a waste injection facility.

The PUD is required to maintain 25% open space. The application does not state how this text amendment, changing the zoning from public to “public, semipublic and recreational” to “public, semipublic, recreational and injection well,” will impact the 25% open space requirement. Clearly, there will be no “public” use of an oil and gas facility waste site, nor will it be open space. The application should be deemed incomplete until these questions are answered.

2) The proposed text amendment substantially harms the public interest;

       a. Proposal is in violation of state setbacks laws

The proposed A Pad and injection wells and other “proposed facilities,” as depicted on Appendix J, would be in violation of state law. Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) Rule 604.a(1) requires a 500-foot setback from homes. Ursa has not supplied any proposed setback distances but estimating those distances, based Appendix J and the use of Google Earth mapping tool, indicates that the proposed location is within 500 feet of several homes in Tamarisk Village.

The new Appendix J places Ursa’s “A Pad” in the only possible place that it could be located in the proposed “public, semipublic, recreational and injection well” zone. Appendix J shows that Ursa intends to cut into the embankment in order to fit its proposed A Pad onto the narrow strip of flat land between Tamarisk Village and the Battlement Mesa water treatment facility.

As can be seen in Figure 1 below, the proposed location of the facilities will be within 500 feet of several homes. We estimate that the pad will be within 1,000 feet of over 30 homes.

Figure 1. Estimated setback distances from Google Earth

The state setback laws provide a minimum distance that wells (including injection wells) can be from homes. These laws were designed to protect public health and safety and welfare of nearby residents. Allowing a text amendment that would result in violation of state laws designed to protect public health, safety and welfare, is not in the public interest.

       b. Proposal threaten air quality for nearby Battlement Mesa residents

Produced water storage tanks are known to emit methane and volatile organic compounds. As discussed in the January 27th comments, produced water contains many chemicals, including hydrocarbons that are naturally-occurring in the gas producing formation. The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment estimates emission factors for produced water tanks just as they do for condensate and oil storage tanks. [Christopher Laplante and Rebecca Vasil, OIL & GAS INDUSTRY CRUDE OIL, CONDENSATE AND PRODUCED WATER ATMOSPHERIC STORAGE TANKS, CDPHE- Stationary Sources Program / Air Pollution Control Division, August 8, 2014. p. 12] The emission factors include volatile organic compounds as well as benzene – a known carcinogen.

c. Proposal may run afoul of environmental justice laws

The US Environmental Protection Agency defines environmental justice as follows:

Environmental justice is the fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin, or income with respect to the development, implementation and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations and policies.

Fair treatment means no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental and commercial operations or policies.

Meaningful involvement means:

  • People have an opportunity to participate in decisions about activities that may affect their environment and/or health
  • The public’s contribution can influence the regulatory agency’s decision
  • Community concerns will be considered in the decision making process
  • Decision makers will seek out and facilitate the involvement of those potentially affected

In this case, the location for the proposed injection well and related facilities is within 500 feet of a low income housing subdivision known as Tamarisk Village. On its website, Battlement Mesa Company advertises Tamarisk Village with the following statement:

“Owners in Tamarisk Village belong to the Battlement Mesa Service Association, (BMSA, the master HOA), thus owners can purchase here knowing that, like all of the Battlement Mesa PUD, the community is covenant protected.”

Battlement Mesa Company is promising potential home-owners or renters a “covenant protected community” with one hand, while at the same time working to change the PUD zoning and those same covenant protections with the other.

3) The proposed text amendment is proposed solely to confer a special benefit upon Ursa Resources.

Ursa Resources knew, or should have known, the limitations of drilling within Battlement Mesa – a residential PUD. The Battlement Mesa PUD does not allow oil and gas waste water injection wells. Waste water injection wells would bring no benefit to the residents of Battlement Mesa — only a new industrial use and the potential for air quality contamination.

4) Ursa Resources should conduct an alternative site analysis to find a more appropriate location for an injection well — outside of the Battlement Mesa PUD.

In its letter to Garfield County, the Colorado Department of Health stated that “There are options available when determining a location for a Class II injection well and the Department believes Class II injection wells should not be located in Urban Mitigation Areas.”

That is the position of the community groups. There is no good reason to locate an injection well and 16 tanks within 1,000 feet of 30 homes. The industry has the ability to pipe water to a location, outside the PUD, that would be far more appropriate for an injection well.

SUMMARY

Please nip Ursa’s efforts to site an oil and gas waste injection facility within the Battlement Mesa PUD in the bud. If the zoning amendment goes forward, there will be at least three additional hearings before the Planning Commission and the County Commissioners. Ultimately, the injection well will have to be relocated because it is in violation of state setback rules. The Planning Commission and Battlement Mesa residents have far better things to do with their time than dealing with proposals to place oil and gas waste injection wells within a residential neighborhood.

Sincerely,

Matt Sura
For BCC, GVCA and WCC

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