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Oil and Gas Development in Battlement Mesa, Colorado
Battlement Mesa located in Garfield County, Colorado, is home to approximately 5,000 residents. This town was built around the 1980’s by Exxon Corporation for their Colony Oil Shale Project developing oil shale. After abruptly abandoning the project in 1982 during a downturn in oil prices, Exxon marketed the town as a good place to retire and eventually sold the Planned Urban Development’s (PUD) surface rights to the Battlement Mesa Company (BMC) in 1989. In 2009, Antero Resources announced plans to begin natural gas development within the Battlement Mesa PUD by leasing the mineral rights that Exxon retained when it sold the surface rights to BMC. BMC, Exxon, and Antero entered into a surface use agreement and Antero announced it would construct 10 well pads and drill 200 natural gas wells, some of which could be as close as 400 feet from residential homes and recreational areas within the PUD. While there is significant oil and gas development in Garfield County surrounding Battlement Mesa, there is currently minimal development within the PUD. Both the proximity of planned wells to PUD houses and the split between surface and mineral ownership makes drilling for natural gas in Battlement Mesa controversial.
In May of 2009 Antero Resources proposed to prepare a comprehensive development plan (CDP) In order to develop their mineral rights, for the Battlement Mesa area. A CDP, also called a comprehensive drilling plan, is a recently adopted procedure (2008) by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) under Rule 216 to minimize adverse impacts to public health, safety, welfare, and the environment during the development of oil and gas. Companies may choose to initiate a CDP, but are not required to do so. However, if a plan is initiated, the COGCC requires the company to develop the CDP in participation with the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE), the Colorado Division of Wildlife (CDOW), any local governmental designees, and all surface owners.
The plan must include the company’s future oil and gas activities within a designated area, the possible impacts of the activity, and the methods to minimize those identified impacts. Furthermore, the COGCC recommends that the plan include as much detail as possible as well as promote public participation. This ensures the best possible outcomes to minimize impacts from oil and gas development. Gunnison Energy developed the first CDP under the new rules; COGCC approved it March 30, 2009. The COGCC is still awaiting the submission of Antero’s CDPs regarding both the Rifle and the Battlement Mesa areas as well as CDPs from Chevron, Encana, Marathon, and Noble.
Antero is developing the CDP for Battlement Mesa with the participation of Battlement Mesa Partners, the Oil and Gas Committee, Parachute/Battlement Mesa Parks and Recreation District, and Battlement Mesa Service Association (BMSA). The Oil and Gas Committee under the BMSA has been the main communication pathway through which public comments can be heard. Moreover, meetings between Antero and the BMSA have been frequent regarding the CDP beginning in 2009 as noted in BMSA’s meeting minutes.
Some Battlement Mesa residents became concerned with Antero’s intent to develop in their area most especially with the close proximity of proposed wells and the impact to their health, environment, and safety. Consequently, the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance petitioned the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners requesting a Health Impact Assessment (HIA) be conducted before any permits were approved. In response, the BOCC requested that the Department of Environmental and Occupational Health and the Colorado School of Public Health (HIA research team) conduct the HIA. This Battlement Mesa HIA is the first of its kind in Colorado associated with a community impacted by natural gas drilling. The draft HIA, in its second comment period in May 2011, provides a survey of baseline data currently available for environmental exposure, health, and safety data relating to Battlement Mesa and analyzes how Antero’s drilling potentially impacts this baseline.
The HIA , along with supporting documents, is available on the Garfield County website. The document includes findings and recommendations on the follwoing resources :
For Further Information:
Colorado School of Public Health
County Commissioner in Garfield County
Western Colorado Congress and
Grand Valley Citizens Alliance
Battlement Mesa Citizen Representative