Concern Grows After Deadly House Explosion Linked to Oil and Gas Line

State and local officials say a house explosion that killed two people and critically injured another last month was the result of an abandoned and severed oil and gas line. Governor Hickenlooper is calling for a statewide investigation.

Officials in the small community of Firestone 30 miles north of Denver say the abandoned line was still connected to an active oil and gas well and was leaking methane and other chemicals. Matt Lepore heads the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state’s regulatory agency. He says the underground line was severed less than ten feet from the home, but it’s not clear when.

“What has taken place here is highly unusual and required a confluence of a number of different events. It’s horrible and horrifying.”

The well is operated by Anadarko Petroleum – which is Colorado’s largest oil and gas producer. Lepore says the state will investigate whether any rules were violated. Governor John Hickenlooper has also companies must inspect and pressure test all flow lines within one thousand feet of any occupied building, and to make sure unused lines are properly capped and that abandoned lines are cut below the surface and sealed. I’m BB at the state capitol.

The Chief of the Frederick-Firestone Fire protection district, Ted Poszywak detailed the findings yesterday afternoon at a news conference. The gas leaked into French drains along the destroyed home from a 1 inch plastic diameter pipeline running from an Anadarko Petroleum well. The gas pooled in the soil around the home leading to the explosion that killed the two men. The company had left the well dormant last year, but restarted it in January. No finding has yet been made as to who is responsible for cutting pipeline, or for the failure to close the valve leading to it.

In response to the findings, Congressman Jared Polis said in a statement that – what occurred in Firestone – was predictable because sadly Colorado does not have adequate protections against dangerous oil and gas developments in neighborhoods.

The Sierra Club issued a statement saying that homeowners and prospective buyers in newer devolvements are not adequately informed about the potentially fatal risks they face. The organization is calling for the Colorado Oil and Gas conservation Commission to halt any new permits and to completely revamp its permitting process.

Conservation Colorado issued a statement calling for elected officials to act with greater urgency to strengthen rules and laws and place the burden on companies to prove drilling is safe, and not require communities to do that.

The town of Erie sent out an email blast on Monday notifying residents that Crestone Peak Resources and Extraction Oil and Gas are continuing to drill even as investigations into the Firestone house explosion were proceeding. Erie’s email was issued before the results of the investigation were made yesterday. The town wrote that the Crestone company was not anticipating closing any of their well sites in the area. In contrast, Anadarko, the operator near the blown up house has shut down 65 of its producing wells within Erie’s limits.

Meanwhile, it was learned that Crestone reached an agreement on Sunday evening with the COGCC that will allow the company to develop a 12-square-mile oil field in eastern Boulder County near Erie. The Denver Post reports that the agreement will ensure that the community participates in decisions about how facilities are spaced and operated. The company is proposing 216 wells for the area.

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