Colorado rolling out 7-pronged attack to improve oil and gas safety

DENVER — A three-months long review into oil and gas operations in the State of Colorado that followed a deadly home explosion in Firestone concluded recently, and Governor John Hickenlooper unveiled a seven-pronged approach to improving safety in the state.

In a meeting Wednesday, Hickenlooper announced the findings of the review and announced how the state would move forward, including a year-long push to accomplish seven action items.

The action items included:

  • Strengthening flowline regulations on the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) 
  • Enhancing the state's 811 call program to learn if there are flowlines near your property
  • Creating a nonprofit program to plug orphan wells
  • Blocking future use of domestic gas taps
  • Creating a technical group to improve safety training in the industry
  • Reviewing COGCC rules through peer review
  • Exploring a possible ambient methane leak detection pilot program

The action items were born from a fatal home explosion in Firestone that resulted from an abandoned gas line that was severed. 

The explosion claimed two lives and led to fear in the community, which is surrounded by flow lines. 

"At the time of the explosion, we committed to do all we could to ensure that what happened to the Martinez and Irwin families never happens again," Hickenlooper said. "The actions we announced today are a responsible and appropriate response that places public safety first." 

Although public safety is said to be paramount, no public maps of the thousands of flow lines will be made available. Instead, the public is asked to utilize the state's 811 program, which will help locate lines near private property.

"There are a lot of concerns of having a database like that available of people stealing gas or tapping into these lines that are considered some sort of level of a security risk," Hickenlooper said.

The governor is also asking oil and gas operators to voluntarily pay to cap the 700 to 800 abandoned wells across the state.

 

"It's a can that's been kicked down the road for decades," Hickenlooper said. "Talking to the industry and saying you guys have a responsibility here, especially the larger companies, you're the leader of the industry and you have to help us lean in." 

The action items rolled out by the governor are slated to take 12 months, but require help from multiple groups, including help in the legislature. 

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