Antero questions recommendations in drilling study of Battlement Mesa
Garfield County commissioners granted a 30-day public comment period extension after hearing concerns Monday from Antero Resources about the revised draft of a study into the possible health impacts of its plans to drill up to 200 natural gas wells in Battlement Mesa.
The updated draft, by the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Denver, concluded that people living in the residential development “will most likely be affected by chemical exposures, accidents/emergencies resulting from industry operations, and stress-related community changes” as a result of the drilling proposal.
They recommended more than 70 steps to minimize drilling impacts.
Study authors had opposed Antero’s request for more time to comment.
“What we’d like to do is work on how implementation of our recommendations can occur,” Dr. Roxana Witter told county commissioners by telephone Monday.
But Kevin Kilstrom, an Antero vice president, said the company needs to be able to further analyze a study that continues to grow in size and recommendations, some of which the company is questioning.
“I hope the commissioners want to see a final product that is reflective of broad input,” he said.
Commissioners and the industry have wanted to ensure that the study not be used more broadly as a political tool, but rather apply only to drilling at Battlement Mesa.
Kilstrom suggested the study “is being driven by preconceived conclusions,” and shows biases such as referring only to negative impacts of the county’s recent drilling boom, including increased crime.
“Yet they don’t go on to cite any of the positive economic impacts of that same boom period,” he said.
He questioned recommendations such as requiring what he considers an arbitrary one-mile setback between exploration and production waste facilities and homes and schools, and worried the proposal could be pursued in places beyond Battlement Mesa.
“When you start drawing one-mile circles around every home in Garfield County or the state of Colorado, there’s going to be a lot of space that’s not accessible to E&P waste facilities,” he said.
For their part, study authors voiced frustration over their inability to get certain industry data, such as the levels of emissions at varying distances from oil and gas facilities.
“The data we don’t have is at least as important as the data that we do have,” Witter said.
County Commissioner Tom Jankovsky said it’s important that Antero have the chance to respond to a study that’s now 500 pages long.
“It’s getting so big and so cumbersome that I have some concerns,” he said.