Groups push for hearing on Battlement Mesa gas

Citizen groups are pressing Garfield County to seek a state hearing on the recent approval by state regulators of an Ursa Resources natural gas drilling location near the Colorado River in Battlement Mesa.

Battlement Concerned Citizens and the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, which is part of the Western Colorado Congress, are making the request based on the fact that the location approval by Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff included surface facilities for a wastewater injection well.

Ursa isn’t currently seeking a permit for the well itself but has indicated it is likely to do so later.

Commission staff have approved two Ursa well pads that will allow the company to drill more than 50 gas wells in the unincorporated community of several thousand residents near Parachute.

The approvals were the first under new commission rules aimed at minimizing impacts of large oil and gas facilities in urban areas.

The citizen groups don’t have standing under oil and gas commission rules to request a hearing before the oil and gas commission to appeal the permit decision, but the county does. The 10-day window for appealing ends at midnight Monday.

County commissioners are scheduled to consider the request by the citizen groups Monday afternoon.

According to a memo to commissioners from the county’s oil and gas liaison, Kirby Wynn, if the county requests a hearing it will be granted.

But the burden of proof would fall on the county to convince the state commission to reverse its staff’s decision. To accomplish that, Wynn wrote, the county may need to hire experts who would show by a preponderance of evidence that it is likely impacts from the pad wouldn’t be sufficiently mitigated.

The well pad is a few hundred feet from Battlement Mesa’s water supply intake. Citizen groups and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment are both concerned about the prospect of an injection well being operated in an urban area and that close to a water supply.

In a letter to county commissioners, Battlement Concerned Citizens questions the state having approved the above-ground injection well pump and wastewater tanks without having gone through the public process for the well permit.

Surface impacts won’t be discussed in the well permit application process, the group says.

“To think that the public will have the ability to meaningfully comment on surface impacts related to an injection well that has not been permitted yet at a later point in time is flawed because the surface impacts will have already been approved,” the citizen groups say in their letter.

However, Wynn notes in his memo that the state’s approval of the injection well location is contingent on the county approving the well.

Operating an injection well in Battlement Mesa could occur only if county commissioners approve a land-use code amendment for the residential development.


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