Garfield ends study of Antero drilling proposal

Garfield County commissioners decided to halt a study of the possible health effects of drilling proposed near Battlement Mesa, worried that ever-rising costs of the study were yielding diminishing returns.

“It’s kind of a disappointment to the residents who at least were hoping they could finalize it,” said Dave Devanney, co-chairman of the Battlement Concerned Citizens group.

Commissioners hired the Colorado School of Public Health at the University of Colorado Denver to conduct the study, which would have helped the county try to minimize the effect of up to 200 wells that Antero Resources plans to drill in the residential community of Battlement Mesa. Devanney said commissioners decided to let the study “die” with its second draft.

County Commissioner John Martin said the work so far will be used during the land-use review of the drilling plan. The study was growing into something far more than originally was intended, Martin said.

“It was a never-ending issue, so we said enough is enough, thank you for the information,” he said.

The revised draft 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. Researchers recommended more than 70 steps to minimize drilling impacts.

Antero officials could not be reached for comment, but the company has been critical of the draft’s findings. Additionally, the oil and gas industry contended that anti-drilling activists are using the study for larger purposes than just opposing the Antero plan.

“The process has been so politicized that at some level it was becoming less productive,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Oil and Gas Association.

The county has spent some $250,000 on the study. Martin said it’s unfair to ask county taxpayers to pay more to try to answer all of the questions various parties were raising.

“It’s a land-use issue. If you want to take this further, you need to take it to a different arena, to the federal level or the state level, to get what answers you are looking for,” he said.

Leslie Robinson of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance said it was the industry that dragged out the process by asking for more time to submit comments.

“We wanted it done a long time ago,” she said.


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