State assures GarCo on Ursa review process

A Colorado oil and gas official on Monday told Garfield County commissioners that any approval the state may give to proposed additional Ursa Resources drilling in Battlement Mesa will consider recommendations from Garfield County, despite concurrent state and county review processes.

Dave Kubeczko, a location specialist for the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, also told county commissioners that the state will not issue any final approvals on Ursa’s proposal until after the county has determined the proposal to be sufficient through its review process.

Kubeczko was responding to questions from commissioners about the implications of the county and state proceeding simultaneously with reviews of Ursa’s proposal to drill dozens of wells from two pads. The proposal also includes pipelines, an injection well and a temporary water storage facility.

Ursa has begun drilling in the unincorporated community of several thousand residents after previously gaining county and state approvals for operations involving two pads.

The county’s original development approval for the Battlement Mesa requires that companies wanting to drill there go through a special-use permit process. One of the proposed new pads also is subject to new state rules providing for a local government consultation process in the case of large oil and gas facilities in urban areas.

The county and Ursa intend for that process to occur through the special-use permit review, which will involve hearings before the county planning commission, and then county commissioners. Ursa is pursuing a state review at the same time to avoid delays in its development operations in Battlement Mesa.

“We would like to keep that as short as possible to minimize our impacts on the community with those drilling and completion operations,” Jennifer Lind, Ursa’s regulatory manager, told commissioners Monday.

While some Battlement Mesa residents welcome the idea of minimizing Ursa’s drilling time there, some other residents and activists fear it will diminish the review and public-comment process. Matt Sura, an attorney for Battlement Concerned Citizens who also served on a state task force that recommended the new urban-drilling rules, wrote to the county and state that the concurrent reviews violate “both the spirit and language” of those rules.

He wrote that the public would be forced to comment on what is an incomplete state application prior to the county being able to come up with preferred approval conditions to be incorporated into the state permit.

Kubeczko said the state has an idea of what the county will be asking of Ursa based on the county’s review of the first two pads. “If there’s anything new that Garfield County comes up with, then we will certainly look at it,” he said.

He said the oil and gas commission would incorporate county recommendations into state approvals if they are things the commission can enforce under state rules.

Ursa asked the county for a letter of support for the concurrent process, seeking to show the state that it is engaging in the local consultation process in good faith. County commissioners on Monday didn’t expressly support simultaneous review, concluding it will happen regardless of their position, but they did decide to inform the state in writing that the county review process is underway.


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