Residents get Ritter response over drilling

BATTLEMENT MESA — Gov. Bill Ritter has asked oil and gas regulators to meet with Battlement Mesa residents within the next month about their concerns over plans to drill up to 200 oil and gas wells within the housing development.

Heidi Van Huysen, legislative program manager for the state Department of Natural Resources, told residents Saturday that Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission staff will meet first with Denver-based Antero Resources about details of the company’s drilling plans.

“I promise that we’ll be back in a month with people who know way more about this particular project than I do,” Van Huysen said.

Van Huysen, state Rep. Kathleen Curry and three Garfield County commissioners met with about 20 Battlement Mesa residents Saturday to discuss what options they have regarding Antero’s plans. The company recently announced its intentions to drill from 10 well pads within the 3,000-acre development, an unincorporated community of 5,500 people.

Curry, D-Gunnison, is chairwoman of the House Agriculture, Livestock and Natural Resources Committee. She said she’s received about 40 e-mails from residents concerned about Antero’s plans, including how close to homes drilling might occur.

Curry decided to contact Ritter’s office, which Van Huysen said led to Ritter requesting that state oil and gas staff meet with residents.

“The governor wants to make sure that folks know when and how to participate” in the decision-making process surrounding Antero’s plans, Van Huysen said.

The state’s new oil and gas rules allow for nearby landowners to comment on drilling permit applications.

“I think there’s more opportunity now with the rules than ever to be involved,” said Tresi Houpt, a Garfield County commissioner who also serves on the state oil and gas commission.
Houpt told residents the county expects to have some say over the drilling through its land-use-review process, and she encouraged them to provide comment during that process.

She said the county made energy development a special use rather than a use-by-right under the original development approval for Battlement Mesa, meaning it can’t proceed without a permit after county review.

“There was no guarantee that any company could move in and put a well pad in certain locations,” Houpt said.

But she and fellow Commissioner John Martin said it’s possible the state may claim its authority over oil and gas development pre-empts any authority the county claims.


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