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Few companies report results of state-ordered oil and gas well inspections

DENVER -- It’s been a little more than a month since a natural gas explosion killed two people in Firestone, and it's been three weeks since Gov. John Hickenlooper gave oil and gas operators 30 days to inspect all flow lines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings.

But at a meeting Tuesday between the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and oil and gas operators in the state, the director of the COGCC said few energy companies have reported the results of the inspections.

Matt Lepore meets with Hickenlooper on Wednesday, in part to update him on the progress of inspections.

Lepore said it appears nothing is being done, but he knows inspections are in progress and asked operators to turn in their reports on a weekly basis.

The mandatory state orders are the first for operators. But four years ago, similar demands were placed on the COGCC.

“We wanted more inspectors. They were only getting around to wells every three years. We thought that was really bad,” said Democratic State Sen. Matt Jones, who sponsored a bill requiring the commission to come up with a risk-based strategy for inspecting oil and gas locations that are most likely to experience spills and excess emissions.

“What the report found is pipes are responsible for half of the leaks and that about 70 percent of the problems are caused by human errors, which tells me they need to inspect a lot better."

That report, also completed in 2013, found more than 4,000 wells considered to be at higher risk because of their proximity to the public. It led the COGCC to increase the number of state inspectors from 16 to 29.

“They get out to a well 1.3 times on average per year, not every three years. That's good," Jones said.

Jones said there’s still much more that needs to be done.

“Better quality control and make sure things are turned on and off properly. They obviously didn’t in Firestone,” he said.

With just one week left for operators to turn in inspection reports and more than a month to finish flow line tests, Jones said operators need to be more transparent with the public.

“I find it fantastic that the oil and gas companies aren’t being more active in letting people know they are being more active after the Firestone tragedy,” Jones said.

During Tuesday's meeting, Lepore also warned operators that the commission will shut in any wells connected to pipelines that haven’t been inspected by the governor’s deadline.

That action could cost them thousands of dollars each day. ​