Lawyers still probing Battlement Mesa for drilling suits

BATTLEMENT MESA — A second high-profile, New York City law firm is speaking with Battlement Mesa residents about possible litigation related to natural gas development there.

Residents recently told lawyers with Weitz & Luxenberg they are concerned about falling property values. They contend the declining values are related to nearby natural gas development and plans by Antero Resources to drill up to 200 wells within the community.

“I don’t think that we will ever get anything for our homes that are here and the money that we put into them,” Garry Evenson told the attorneys.

But Lynn Shore, who owns properties in Battlement Mesa and lives in the gas patch nearby, said in an interview he thinks resident activists are the ones damaging property values by suggesting that with drilling, the community is “going to be a cesspool, and we’re all going to die from cancer.”

“It’s just way overblown,” said Shore, who is part of a group called Common Cause, which has been calling for people to question what they hear and consider the impacts of their statements.

Weitz & Luxenberg has handled oil and gas litigation in other states and is currently pursuing action for clients claiming damages from last year’s BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Another New York City firm, Napoli Bern Ripka, hosted Garfield County meetings as it considered drilling-related litigation on behalf of residents. The company recently sued on behalf of Bill and Beth Strudley, who claim their family suffered ill effects from gas development by Antero Resources on Silt Mesa.

During a meeting in Battlement Mesa, the Napoli Bern Ripka firm discussed action that could include seeking a court order to stop the drilling based on concerns raised in a draft study about possible health impacts on residents.

Julia LeMense of Weitz & Luxenberg told residents she was interested in their allegations that the community’s developer, Battlement Mesa Co., failed to fully disclose the possibility of drilling occurring there and had promised it wouldn’t take place.

The company’s general manager, Eric Schmela, said in an interview the company never was in a position to stop drilling because it doesn’t own all of the mineral rights involved. However, it worked to negotiate a surface-use agreement with Antero that is designed to protect land values and lifestyles there, which is in the company’s interest as a developer as well, he said.


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