Report: Battlement Mesa drilling plan could be harmful
Air quality at risk, state says in report
Plans by Antero Resources to drill for natural gas in Battlement Mesa could have harmful consequences for people living near the drill rigs, according to a health assessment by the Colorado School of Public Health, which also urged that the company “rapidly adapt new technology” to reduce emissions.
The assessment was presented Monday to the Garfield County Commission, which can take the recommendation into account if Antero submits a drilling plan.
Air quality will be most affected during well-pad construction, well-completion and from truck traffic and could in some cases require medical treatment, the report said.
In all, the effect on air quality is very nearly the worst it could be, the report said, ranking a negative 14.5 on a scale of plus or minus 6 to 15.
Water quality, however, is unlikely to be harmed because primary water sources lie upstream from the areas Antero said it planned to drill.
No plans, however, have been submitted to the county or Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
Antero’s plans a year ago called for 120 to 150 workers drilling 200 wells on nine pads over a five-year development period. “The ultimate goal is to look at all the impacts that could occur relative to this particular development,” Ron Rada, environmental health manager for Garfield County, said.
That includes taking into account the potential for the local economy to benefit from drilling.
Battlement Mesa is made up of more than 5,000 people with a median age of 37.5 years. The residents “appear to be generally healthier than other citizens of Colorado,” the report said, noting that they experience fewer hospitalizations and fewer deaths than Colorado in general.
The energy industry welcomed Garfield County’s “scientific approach to conducting the health-impact assessment,” said David Ludlam, executive director of the West Slope Colorado Oil and Gas Association.
“Antero Resources has provided the county data in a collaborative spirit, and while time is needed to fully review the draft, the county’s team deserves credit for what appears to be a solid approach,” Ludlam said.
The assessment noted that natural gas is becoming an accepted source of fuel for electrical generation, but local effects need greater scrutiny.
“While municipal, county and state governments have begun to respond to citizen concerns, a national discussion of the benefits and risks associated with this policy is due,” the assessment said.
The report is available on the Web at http://www.garfield-county.com/Index.aspx?page=1404.
A public meeting and research presentation is scheduled before the Garfield County Commission at 3 p.m. Oct. 4. Public comment will be accepted through Oct. 20 and a final assessment will be submitted to the commission by Nov. 15.