Gas company gets permits for Battlement Mesa well pads

Garfield board votes 3-0 to allow drilling, two decades after operations began

Battlement Mesa natural gas operations dating back almost two decades now have the proper land-use permitting after Garfield County commissioners on Monday rectified an oversight by energy companies and the county.

Commissioners voted 3-0 to grant special use permits to Williams Production RMT for two well pads within the Battlement Mesa development.

The county and Williams learned earlier this year that the permits were required in the unincorporated community of about 5,500 people after Antero Resources began pursuing plans to drill up to 200 wells there. The county doesn’t require permits for well pads today, but used to do so at the time it approved the Battlement Mesa development.

Barrett Resources Corp., which Williams later purchased, began drilling on one of the sites in 1990. Williams recently finished drilling wells but has yet to complete well fracturing work on that pad. The second pad has producing wells but Williams isn’t currently proposing more drilling there.

The new permits impose air pollution monitoring and other requirements, including one that Williams haul away all cuttings material, which consists of rock brought to the surface during drilling.

County Commissioner John Martin said that requirement could raise a pre-emption issue for the state. The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission allows cuttings to be buried on site if they don’t exceed state standards for contaminants.

County Commissioner Mike Samson said requiring the cuttings’ removal could give the county a better idea of what position the state might take when Antero brings its Battlement Mesa drilling proposal before the county.

“Are they going to start pre-empting us on all kinds of things?” Samson asked.

County Commissioner Tresi Houpt, who also serves on the oil and gas commission, said she’s not anticipating pre-emption problems based on the new rules passed by the state commission.

Some Battlement Mesa residents called on Williams to be fined for its lack of permits. Commissioners on Monday didn’t pursue that idea, which Martin said would require going to court. But Houpt said she thinks the county needs to talk about the possibility of imposing penalties on not just energy companies, but “anyone not adhering to our regulations.”

Leslie Robinson, a board member of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, said her group will continue to pursue a fine against Williams.

Williams spokeswoman Susan Alvillar said, “It’s never been our intention to do things without permits but it was an oversight for everyone involved.”


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