Ursa executes end run around state setbacks rule

Ursa’s proposed A Pad in Battlement Mesa

And rather than protect the health and safety of Tamarisk Village mobile home park residents, the good-ol-boy Garfield county commissioners agreed to fast track the changes on Ursa’s land use permit.

Ursa plans to pull drilling equipment farther away from homes

Leslie Robinson, with the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, called the company’s move “rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic.”

Ursa’s proposed Battlement Mesa A pad will border the Tamarisk Village mobile home park within 340 feet of one home, 500 feet of seven homes and 1,000 feet of 51 homes. According to state rules the location of the well pad within a residential zone makes it a large urban mitigation facility and therefore Ursa cannot drill within in 500 feet of homes unless they obtain waivers from all the impacted homeowners, or seek a variance. During the county’s permit approval process last fall Ursa had obtained the necessary waivers but after the county approved the permits, one couple rescinded their waiver due to concerns about health impacts.

In January, Kent Kuster, oil and gas liaison for the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), sent a letter to the COGCC saying his agency can’t support granting Ursa Resources a variance to drill within 500 feet of homes in Battlement Mesa.

“Currently, the Department has no scientific evidence to support allowing oil and gas operations to be closer than 500 feet to residents regardless of the potential for increased trucking within (Battlement Mesa) and the associated impacts to residents,” Kuster wrote.

Last week a study was released from the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) at the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical Campus showing evidence that the lifetime cancer risk for people living within 500 feet of a well was eight times higher than the Environmental Protection Agency’s upper-level risk threshold.

The study’s lead author Lisa McKenzie (PhD, MPH, Colorado School of Public Health) said: “Our results suggest that Colorado’s current regulations that specify a 500 foot distance between a newly drilled oil and gas well and an existing home may not protect people from exposures to hazardous air pollutants that could impact their health.”

However the commissioners, who are not known for heeding health concerns from citizens or the CDPHE, and have never taken scientific evidence under consideration when addressing oil & gas permits, tossed all of the above aside in favor of Ursa’s rule-bending scheme.

According to the article in today’s Daily Sentinel the well pad itself will not be moved.

… Ursa told Garfield County commissioners Monday that while the pad location would remain the same, the company is seeking to locate production equipment on the northern side of the pad, farther away from mobile homes on the top of a hill to the south.

The result would be that the closest home would be 512 feet from the production equipment. That compares to 340 feet under its previous proposal, under which several of the homes would have been closer than 500 feet …

… The company plans to move tanks, separators, a combustor, three wellheads, and a wastewater injection well and associated equipment to comply with the buffer …

Leslie Robinson pointed out that Ursa’s plan to rearrange equipment on the well pad will place the equipment closer to the Colorado River.

The article continued:

… Dave Devanney, with Battlement Concerned Citizens, said while he’s glad some of the equipment will be farther from homes, he’s still not pleased knowing that Battlement Mesa residents will be close to oil and gas operations. He said the change “wasn’t done to protect public health and safety but to narrowly meet COGCC regulations that were jeopardizing Ursa’s plan” …

He noted that the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment had opposed letting Ursa drill closer than 500 feet from homes without waivers, citing a lack of scientific evidence to support allowing oil and gas operations within that buffer.

Devanney asked rhetorically Monday, “Do you suppose that they have evidence showing it is safe to drill within 550 feet or 600 feet or 512 feet?”

Ursa’s approval for a setback variance from Garfield County is merely a step in a permitting process that has been hampered by widespread public outcry in opposition and outright chicanery on the part of Ursa. The company has yet to obtain final approval for Pad A from the COGCC.

How, at this late stage in the permitting process, Ursa can be allowed to avoid a variance of state setback rules simply by moving equipment around remains to be seen.

Western Slope Now (KREX-TV)Ursa Plans to Move Equipment Farther from Homes

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