By Dennis Webb
Saturday, June 27, 2015
Ursa Resources has filed a proposal with Garfield County to drill 53 wells from two pads in the residential community near Parachute.
The proposal is expected to be the first phase of a drilling project in the community that could involve up to seven pads there, and comes as state regulators will consider task force recommendations on the issue of oil and gas development near urban areas.
Battlement Mesa is an unincorporated community of several thousand people, ranging from retirees to oil and gas workers. Recent efforts to drill there date back to 2009, when Antero Resources proposed drilling about 200 wells from 10 pads. Antero sold its area holdings to Ursa before doing any drilling there. As Antero had, Ursa has been drilling around the development’s boundaries but not within it.
Besides being subject to state approvals, drilling in Battlement Mesa requires a special-use permit from the county as part of the original county approval of the development.
“This is the moment we have been anticipating for many years,” Dave Devanney, chairman of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens, said in a news release, adding that “now is the time for Battlement Mesa residents to join with us to make our concerns known and do what we can to limit the potential harm from this proposal.”
Emily Hornback, a community organizer with the Western Colorado Congress community action alliance, said while there have been negotiations going on to make the impacts smaller, “it’s still going to be a lot of impacts for folks.”
Ursa official Don Simpson said the development originally had 14 identified pad locations, but that number has been reduced first by Antero and now by Ursa, which hopes it ultimately will need even fewer than seven pads. He expects Ursa will drill around the same number of wells there that Antero proposed.
Noting Ursa’s drilling near the development, he added, “A lot of the concerns that people have been worried about really haven’t come to fruition. We’re a safe operator. We look at detail and we take care of things.”
One concern for citizen groups is where one of the two proposed initial pads would sit in relation to Battlement Mesa’s community water intake on the Colorado River. Simpson said the pad near the river would be downstream of the intake.
Hornback questions the proposal’s timing. A task force unanimously recommended new state rules to better protect communities from large-scale oil and gas facilities, and she wonders if Ursa is trying to get its project approved before the rules are adopted by the state.
Matt Sura, an attorney who was on the task force, said it recommended consultation by local government before pads are chosen in such circumstances, something that didn’t occur with Ursa’s proposal. He said one Battlement Mesa neighborhood would be about 800 feet from both pads. “This is a perfect example of why the task fore was created and why these rules are so needed,” he said.
“Just the scale of the operations that are being proposed is something that I don’t think anyone would want to see in their neighborhood. It’s going to be months of drilling and hydraulic fracturing and then a lifetime of truck traffic going to and from those industrial sites.”
Simpson said the timing of Ursa’s submittal has nothing to do with the new rules the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will consider, and he doesn’t know if they’ll apply.
“I can’t control the rules or when they take effect,” he said.
Ursa will continue holding meetings to educate residents about various aspects of the oil and gas development process, Simpson said. Ursa hopes to do all of its drilling in Battlement Mesa within several years, but Simpson said if residents keep fighting the company and delaying things, that will drag out the process as opposed to Ursa “getting in there, doing the development and getting out.”