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Governor announces Colorado’s response to oil and gas review after deadly home explosion

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DENVER -- Gov. John Hickenlooper announced the state’s response to a review of oil and gas operations on Tuesday.

The review was called in response to the deadly home explosion in Firestone in April.

Mark Joseph Martinez, 42 of Firestone, and Joseph William Irwin III, 42 of Frederick, were killed in the explosion on Twilight Avenue.

Erin Martinez was pinned under the collapsed roof and was critically injured.

Investigators said the explosion was caused by unrefined, odorless natural gas from a 1-inch pipeline that was severed.

"We are spending millions of dollars to do everything we can to make sure it never happens again," Hickenlooper said during a news conference.

Anadarko Petroleum disconnected all 1-inch diameter natural gas flow lines from more than 3,000 vertical wells in Colorado shortly after the explosion.

In July, Anadarko announced plans to restart more than 3,000 vertical wells.

"The governor is directing work to now focus on policy initiatives," officials said in a statement.

Changes will fall into several areas.

  • Strengthening Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's flow line regulations
  • Enhancing the 811 “one-call” program
  • Creating a nonprofit orphan well fund to plug and abandon orphan wells, and provide refunds for in-home methane monitors
  • Prohibiting future domestic gas taps
  • Creating a technical work group to improve safety training
  • Requesting peer-review of some COGCC rules
  • Exploring an ambient methane leak detection pilot program

The initiatives should be completed within a year, officials said.

"Can you say never about any of these things I don't know but this is about as close to never as you are going to get," Hickenlooper said.

But some question if the transparency goes far enough.

"It's a good start, but it's not the transparency the public wants to see," State Rep. Mike Foote (D) said.

Foote's objection is that people will have to physically call 811 to get information on flow lines beneath property.

As of now, residents would not be able to inquire about flow lines on neighbors' properties.

"Other states map their pipelines and it hasn't created too much of an issue and there are plenty of people who want to see if there are flowlines next to their house," Foote said.

"You will have to physically call, but it is 811, it's three numbers," Hickenlooper said.

When asked why the information would be not be put online, Hickenlooper said, "There are a lot of concerns of having a database like that available of people stealing gas."

The proposals still need approval by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission and in some cases the General Assembly.

The governor did not propose any changes to how close a well site can be to a home or school.