GarCo backs off well-spacing concerns in two areas

GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Garfield County has backed off plans to raise concerns with the state this month regarding natural gas well-spacing proposals in Battlement Mesa and the Garfield Creek State Wildlife Area near New Castle.

County commissioners initially sought to intervene with the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission on applications by Antero Resources at Battlement Mesa and Dejour Energy (USA) Corp. at Garfield Creek. The county contends that even with the use of directional drilling of multiple wells from one pad, the proposed 10-acre underground well spacing results in cumulative above-ground impacts that need to be considered.

County attorney Don DeFord, however, said an oil and gas commission hearing officer told him a well-density proposal isn’t the appropriate occasion for the county to be raising public health, safety and welfare issues with the commission. An alternative process for the county will exist when the state considers companies’ permit applications for surface facilities related to drilling, the hearing officer said.

DeFord said if the oil and gas commission agreed with the hearing officer, and the county wanted to continue pursuing the interventions, it might have to do so in Denver District Court.

The county raised the issue at Garfield Creek out of concern about potential wildlife impacts. In the Battlement Mesa subdivision, Antero is planning to drill as many as 200 wells from 10 well pads, prompting worries from some residents about health and other impacts.

Scott Balcomb, an attorney representing Antero, said the well spacing is needed for Antero to drill the 200 wells, and if the state approves it, the company would not be increasing how many wells it plans to drill.

He said the proper place for the county to be involved in Antero’s plan is later, in the county zoning process and when the company seeks state approval for a comprehensive drilling plan dealing with surface impacts.

“We just think that it’s appropriate to wait until another day and not proceed with the intervention,” he said.

Antero’s current spacing proposals cover only portions of Battlement Mesa. Ten-acre spacing already is in place for about half of the subdivision.

County commissioners unanimously agreed to cease intervention in the Dejour case, but Commissioner Tresi Houpt argued that intervening in Antero’s well spacing still is warranted.

“Is it in the best interests of the public in terms of health, safety and welfare to allow for that kind of spacing in every circumstance? I don’t think so,” Houpt said.


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