GarCo commissioners may fund health study ahead of Battlement Mesa drilling

The Garfield County commissioners Wednesday indicated their willingness to not only have a health impact assessment conducted in the community of Battlement Mesa, where Antero Resources wants to drill 200 natural gas well, but also offered to fund such a study.

In a special work session, the commissioners said some of the $17 million in oil and gas mitigation funds collected from the recent natural gas boom could be dedicated to funding a baseline air quality study as well as health assessment of the 5,000 residents of Battlement Mesa, according to the Glenwood Springs Post-Independent.

“Why wait for a grant?” commissioner John Martin said at the meeting, referring to a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and Pew Charitable Trusts Health Impact Assessment.

Members of the Battlement Concerned Citizens are worried about air and water quality pollution, as well as the traffic, noise and light impacts of the Antero plan, and they first broached the idea of such a study – reportedly unique to the state – with county health officials.

While supportive of the idea, the commissioners were uncertain such a study could be conducted before they must make a decision on Antero’s plan under the land-use regulatory authority they maintain because the county approved the original Planned Unit Development for the former Exxon company town. The state also must approve a Comprehensive Drilling Plan for the project.

In a bit of bad news for the Battlement Concerned Citizens, the county commissioners earlier in the week voted to allow the Williams gas drilling company to continue operations from a well pad operating inside the PUD without proper county permits for nearly 20 years. The Williams’ violation was discovered when Antero first presented its drilling plan, but the commissioners decided it was an innocent oversight.

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