Commission drafts new state guidelines to regulate state pipelines

DENVER -- Just six months after the fatal home explosion in Firestone caused by a natural gas leak, the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission has drafted new state guidelines for regulating pipelines.

The full set of proposed standards won't be available until Sunday, but the public has a chance to weigh in before the commission makes the rules permanent in December.

The new guidelines are a direct result of the house explosion in April that killed two men and left a woman severely burned.

The explosion was traced to fumes that seeped into the house from a gas flow line that had accidentally been cut and an abandoned well that apparently had not been properly capped.

Since the explosion, the victims' families and their neighbors have demanded tougher regulations. This summer, Gov. John Hickenlooper called for a review of the rules, too.

The new regulations are expected to toughen rules on designing and testing flow lines.

They would also require oil and gas operators to call 811 to report any buried lines to alert contractors who might accidentally dig them up.

Regulators currently only test the lines once a rule. The new rules would modernize that process too.

"We’ve learned a lot from this horrible event that they suffered through and there are technical changes we could make to the way we regulate flow lines, the way we require them to be tested, the way we require them to be monitored, and this rulemaking is going to tighten that system up," said Todd Hartman with the Colorado Department of Natural Resources.

Formal public hearings will be held Dec. 11 and 12 and can be found on the commission's website as well as the current listing of pipelines in the state.