Panel delays decision on Ursa plan to drill Battlement Mesa wells

A Garfield County panel has postponed until Sept. 26 an expected decision on a proposal by Ursa Resources to drill more than 55 wells from two pads in Battlement Mesa.

The delay comes after the company asked during a hearing late Wednesday night for revisions to some of the proposed conditions of approval that are designed to protect residents.

The Garfield County Planning Commission delayed its decision after some five hours Wednesday of considering the proposal, which also includes pipelines, a wastewater injection well and a temporary water storage facility.

The proposal would entail Ursa’s second phase of drilling in the residential community of several thousand residents. It is currently drilling more than 50 wells from two other pads there.

Drilling is subject to a county review process in Battlement Mesa under the terms of the county’s original approval of the unincorporated development decades ago. County commissioners will make the final county decision on the phase-two proposal, which also will be subject to a state approval process.

Opponents to the proposal particularly object to the fact that one of the pads would be within 500 feet of several residents of a mobile home park.

One of the conditions of approval proposed by county planning staff would require the use of soundwalls on that pad to reduce noise for nearby residents.

“We’d like to start without the soundwall and see if it works (without it) and then go from there,” said Don Simpson, an Ursa vice president.

While close to the mobile homes, the pad would be cut into a hillside below them, a different situation from pads located near homes on level ground.

Matt Sura, an attorney representing citizen groups, worries what eliminating soundwalls might mean for nearby residents. He said Ursa’s own studies indicate quite a bit of noise will come up the hill and be heard by residents during up to three years of drilling and hydraulic fracturing of wells.

“That’s a long time to be having to suffer through industrial levels of noise,” Sura said. ” … Certainly any efforts that would lower the amount of noise that is going to be experienced by nearby residents is something that should be in place.”

Simpson said Ursa has learned through experience that its use of soundwalls needs to be site-specific. On other pads it has been able to reduce sound impacts by adding walls in some places or removing them in others, as in cases where there is an unintended effect of a wall reflecting noise in a different direction, disturbing other residents.

“We always have to make adjustments as we go. We just want to have the flexibility to make those adjustments,” he said.

Among other revisions Ursa is seeking in proposed approval conditions, it wants modification of a requirement that it do leak detection testing every three months. Sura believes testing that frequently is warranted for drilling in a residential area, whereas Simpson thinks it makes sense to only have to do tests as often as is required by the state after equipment is subject to an initial period of the more frequent tests.


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