Battlement citizens, snubbed by planners, question ties to O&G industry

Citizen activists in Battlement Mesa were feeling dejected late last week after the Garfield County Planning Commission gave the nod of approval to two natural gas wells operating inside their community without proper permits for nearly 20 years.

According to the Glenwood Springs Post Independent, the commission set some fairly stringent conditions for recommending approval of special use permits for the wells, now owned by Williams Production RMT Co., but members of the local activist group Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC) were far from pleased.

gas drill

“We have been distressed since the May 27, 2009, meeting that announced plans for 10 well pads and up to 200 natural gas wells within our community,” BCC’s Dave Devanney wrote in a letter to the planning commission. “Our feelings of outrage and frustration were further heightened when we later learned that another operator, Williams Production RMT Company, had already been drilling within the PUD (planned unit development) – without the required Special Use Permit (SUP) – for nineteen years!”

According to the Post Independent, the wells were originally drilled by Barrett Resources Corp. in 1990 and should have obtained special use permits because the Battlement Mesa PUD – home to 5,000 people – falls under county jurisdiction. There is still active drilling from one of the well pads, while the other is in production mode, although it could see drilling in the future.

Members of Battlement Concerned Citizens were asking the planning commission to require the county planning staff to conduct an internal audit to see how many wells obtained “after-the-fact” permits and whether there should be changes to the permitting process to make sure it doesn’t happen again. BCC also wanted a plan for environmental monitoring of air and water supplies, as well as quarterly rather than yearly reporting by Williams.

BCC members told the Colorado Independent their requests were largely ignored, possibly because some of the planning commission members – volunteers appointed by the Garfield County board of commissioners – have existing business relationships with Williams.

According to the Post Independent, planning commission member John Kuersten revealed that his company does work for Williams, but he did not recuse himself from voting in favor of recommending approval of the special use permits. The county commissioners will likely make a final determination on the application on Dec. 14.

The BCC also wants the county to seek an outside Health Impact Assessment before approving Antero’s drilling plan.

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About the Author

David O. Williams

is an award-winning reporter who has covered energy, environmental and political issues for years. His work has appeared in the New York Times, Chicago Tribune and Denver Post. He's founder of Real Vail
and Real Aspen.

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