Western Colorado retirees face life amid wells
The Denver Post
Battlement Mesa, CO Colorado
BATTLEMENT MESA, Colorado ” This community built to house energy workers during the 1980s oil-shale boom, which then morphed into a community for retirees seeking the western Colorado sun, is entering a new phase ” as a gas field.
Denver-based Antero Resources has entered an agreement with Battlement Mesa Co. to drill up to 200 wells from 10 pads beginning in August.
One pad would be just 100 feet from the sixth hole on the public golf course. Another would be 500 feet from the nearest home. Many more of the 1,000 single-family houses in the development east of Parachute would look down on the wells.
But the two companies spent two years hammering out plans to minimize the impacts to avoid the complaints that plague the industry as it drills close to homes in gas-rich Garfield County.
Antero’s plans are among the first to seek permits under the state’s stricter oil and gas rules.
The company plans to drill the first two wells off a single pad by fall. Future wells may come after energy prices rebound.
Under the state’s new rules, the company is creating a comprehensive drilling plan meant to take into account impacts on neighbors and wildlife.
“We really think we’re going to keep our impacts down to as minimal a level as possible,” said Kevin Kilstrom, Antero’s vice president of production.
Well pads would be sunk and surrounded by berms covered with trees and shrubs to screen them. Derricks would be shrouded on three sides to lessen the night glow from lights and to camouflage the rigs during the day.
Rather than running noisy diesel generators, Antero proposed to power the derricks with electricity.
For many residents, already weary of gas rigs spreading across the landscape, nothing the company can do would make it worth drilling inside their community.
“That’s getting a little too close to home, as far as I’m concerned,” said Battlement Mesa resident Mike Misek.
Although many residents may have been unaware, gas drilling beneath Battlement Mesa has always been a possibility. Exxon built the community, which includes apartment buildings and trailer homes, to house workers at its nearby oil-shale plant. But after it shuttered the facility in 1982, on a day remembered here as Black Sunday, the community went empty.
Exxon sold the 3,000-acre development to Battlement Mesa Co., but it retained most of the mineral rights.
The development became a retirement community. Then roughnecks moved in to work in the nearby gas fields. Rentals emptied out again last year as gas drilling here declined.
Exxon Mobil has leased its mineral rights to Antero, a company with a reputation locally of working well with residents. Antero has agreed to four fewer well pads than Exxon had planned and would stay off some of the mesas where wells would be most visible.
“There will still be those that aren’t happy with what’s going on,” said Battlement Mesa Co. president Eric Schmela. “Everybody who lives out here lives in the heart of gas country.”
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