Governor Unveils New Rules, Regulations To Deter Dangers Near Oil, Gas Flowlines

· Aug. 22, 2017, 9:28 pm
Photo: Firestone ExplosionAP
Workers dismantle the charred remains of a house at the location where an unrefined petroleum industry gas line leak explosion killed two people inside their home, in Firestone, Colo. April 17. 

Four months after investigators linked an improperly abandoned oil and gas flowline to a home explosion that killed two people and injured one in Firestone, Gov. John Hickenlooper outlined a plan Tuesday to strengthen the protections on underground lines and prevent future methane leaks.

But Hickenlooper says the state won't offer an online map of oil and gas pipelines as part of the package.

"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 level of a security risk,” he said Tuesday.

Colorado will instead expand it's 811 service -- a phone line residents can call to have trained workers mark the location of underground utilities on their property. Officials will also strengthen regulations for oil and gas pipelines to reduce the chances of another home explosion.

"What happened in Firestone we've never seen before,” he said during Tuesday’s announcement. “We're spending millions to make sure this never happens again."

The rule-tightening is one of seven steps recommended by state regulators who reviewed oil and gas operations at Hickenlooper's direction after the explosion. Taken together they include:

  • Beefing up the Colorado Oil and Gas Commission’s flowline regulations.
  • Enhancing the 811 call system to include more flowline data.
  • Creating a nonprofit orphan well fund to plug and abandon orphan wells.
  • Prohibiting new domestic gas taps, which some rural homes use to get gas directly from a nearby well.
  • A group formed by the governor will focus on reviewing industrial employee training requirements.
  • Requesting peer-review of some COGCC rules, especially orphan wells.
  • Looking into the possibility of an ambient methane leak detection pilot program

“Historically we didn’t have any information on these flowlines. And that’s a recipe for disaster. I think 811 becomes the proper vehicle by which we can assemble all that information,” Hickenlooper said.

Investigators blamed the explosion on gas leaking from a severed pipeline that was thought to be abandoned but was still connected to a well.

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