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Battlement Mesa HIA background


Project background and information
In early October 2009, the Battlement Concerned Citizens (BCC), a committee of the Grand Valley Citizens Alliance, presented a petition to the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) with some 400 signatures of residents from the Battlement Mesa community requesting “to defer any permitting decision related to natural gas exploration and/or production within the Planned Unit Development (PUD) of Battlement Mesa until a thorough study of public health, safety and welfare concerns associated with urban natural gas development has been completed.” This request was in response to a planned natural gas development project consisting of 200 wells and associated infrastructure serving 10 well pads within the 3200-acre Battlement Mesa PUD, which was announced by Antero Resources in the spring of 2009.

The BCC also provided a follow-up letter on November 9, 2009, detailing specific concerns and requests, particularly the request for “the county and state to conduct a ‘Health Impact Assessment’ (HIA) before a Special Use Permit is approved to any company drilling within the Battlement Mesa PUD”.

The BOCC tasked Garfield County Public Health (GCPH) with developing an approach to the design and implementation of studies that address the specific concerns and requests of the BCC. In December 2009, GPCH initiated an effort with the Colorado School of Public Health (CSPH) aimed at addressing the citizen concerns. This effort involved assembling a diverse group of stakeholders including individual citizens and organizations from Battlement Mesa, several energy development companies, the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) and the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC). As time passed and the process unfolded, additional individuals and organizations joined to the stakeholder group. The stakeholder process resulted in the planned approach to the HIA and Environmental Health Monitoring Study (EHMS), the development of the draft HIA, public commentary on the Draft HIA and the ongoing, public dialogue that is planned to culminate in a final HIA report on April 30 2011.

CSPH applied to the Pew Charitable Trusts, Health Impact Project for $150,000 to conduct the HIA. In the interest of moving forward quickly, the Garfield County Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) committed up to $257,000 of county general funds in mid-February 2010 to finance the HIA and Phase 1 (Design phase) of the EHMS.

In May 2010, due to contractual and organizational policy issues, the project was split into two parts, the HIA and the EHMS design. The HIA Project began in May 2010 and the EHMS in July 2010 with expected completion dates of December 2010. The rapid turnaround for these contracts was based on the anticipated submittal of a land use proposal to Garfield County for the Antero Resources natural gas development project. As of January 2011, this land use proposal has not been submitted.

Throughout the HIA process, there has been strong emphasis on maintaining an open, transparent, science-based, neutral approach to this effort. At the release of the Draft HIA report, a 60-day public comment period resulted in almost 400 comments from a variety of organizations and individuals. As expected, the opinions expressed were divergent on some topics and similar on others. Because of this, and because a land use proposal had yet to be submitted by Antero Resources, the BOCC requested that additional dialogue take place around the numerous comments and in December 2010, the BOCC extended both CSPH contracts and provided an additional $97,000 in funding to support the additional HIA public review process.

 

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