On Wednesday, September 13, the Garfield County Planning and Zoning Commission heard testimony on “Battlement Mesa Phase II” which would allow 55 new gas wells and one waste injection well, within the Battlement Mesa Planned Unit Development (PUD) near Parachute, Colorado. Last year, Ursa received permission for “Phase I” which included 53 wells within Battlement Mesa. The proposed Phase II will add another 55 wells and a waste injection well for a grand total of 109 wells within the residential community of Battlement Mesa.
Dozens of people spoke at the hearing, with the majority speaking against the proposal. The planning commission decided to go into a continuance for the hearing which will held at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Sept. 26. If approved, the proposal would then need to be considered by the Garfield County Commissioners.
Ursa’s proposed A Pad, where the injection well would be located, will be less than 500 feet from eight homes – closer than allowed by COGCC rules. Matt Sura, attorney for Grand Valley Citizen Alliance and Battlement Concerned Citizens (a committee of GVCA), stated in written comments to Garfield County that the proposal should be denied because it is closer than the state-mandated 500 feet from homes and because Ursa has not obtained waivers from all residents within that distance. Local zoning standards require the proposal to be in compliance with state law.
“This could be the most unsafe drilling proposal in the state” remarked Leslie Robinson, president of Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, WCC’s local affiliate in Garfield County. “The fact that Ursa and Garfield County did not notify nearby residents of the public hearing is unconscionable. The Garfield County Planning Commission hearing should be postponed until impacted residents are officially notified of the hearing.”
Some residents closest to the proposal told BCC members they did not received written notice about the proposal or about the Garfield County Planning Commission hearing. The Garfield County Code requires mailing hearing notice to, “Adjacent Property Owners” which are defined as “An owner of record of any estate, right, or interest in real property that is located within 200 feet of the subject parcel or only separated by a Federal, State or municipal right-of-way.”
Attorney Sura stated, “It is shocking that Ursa and Garfield County have taken the position that those residents that are closest to the proposal do not have to receive notice simply because they live in mobile homes. Not only is this misreading the Garfield County Code, it is also unbelievably unfair to the residents who will be living with industrial levels of noise and odors for the next three years.”
In a letter to the Commission, Sura argued that, “Clearly a mobile home owner has a leasehold estate on the real property. Their lease gives them a right to occupy the property. They are therefore “Adjacent Property Owners” and should have been notified.”
BCC’s attorney has also notified Garfield County that its failure to notify affected residents runs afoul of federal environmental justice laws that require fair treatment of residents, despite their race or income.
Since Garfield County did not notify impacted residents, BCC members conducted an outreach visit to those residents closest to Pad A.
“Everyone we talked with were concerned about what was being proposed,” noted BCC chair, Dave Devanney. “One mother was concerned about health impacts because her children suffered from asthma. Her trailer will only be 450 feet from the tanks and production equipment for 24 wells and a waste water injection well.”
BCC members also believe that the proposed waste water injection well poses a threat to the entire community. The waste water injection well will only be 150 feet from the Battlement Water Treatment Plant and 1,000 feet from the Colorado River. It will be injecting hazardous waste underground – primarily used hydraulic fracturing fluid that is known to contain toxic chemicals and hydrocarbons.