Colorado governor wants map of drilling pipelines after Firestone house explosion

3 min. read

By Dan Elliott and Kristen Wyatt, Associated Press

Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said Wednesday the state should have comprehensive maps of oil and gas pipelines to help prevent a repeat of a fatal house explosion blamed on an old, severed gas line.

Hickenlooper said that may require a new law, and the Legislature is unlikely to pass one this year because the session is almost over.

"But I don't think it's unreasonable for that to be public information," he said.

Hickenlooper spoke a day after investigators announced that an April 17 explosion that killed two people was caused by odorless, unrefined gas leaking from the severed underground pipeline.

The line was believed to be abandoned but was still connected to a gas well with a valve turned to the open position, investigators said.

The underground flow line was was 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter and had been severed within 10 feet (3 meters) of the home, officials said. Investigators said they do not know when or how the line was cut.

State regulations require abandoned lines to be disconnected and capped. Investigators have said they do not know why that was not done.

With 54,000 active oil and gas wells, Colorado has thousands of similar lines, known as flow lines. They carry oil or gas from a well to a storage tank or other collection point.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, which regulates the industry, said it does not have complete records of the locations.

"Some of these old wells that are abandoned, I'm not sure if people even know where the flow lines are," said Hickenlooper, a Democrat and a former petroleum geologist. "We'll try to go to every data source we can get."

He said it could take two years to compile the data.

Immediately after investigators announced their findings about the explosion, Hickenlooper ordered inspections of all flow lines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings.

The order, issued by the Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, requires energy companies to give the state GPS location data on their flow lines. A commission spokesman did not immediately respond to questions about whether that data would be sufficient to create a flow line map.

The explosion was in Firestone, about 30 miles (48 kilometers) north of Denver. Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law, Joseph William Irwin III, were killed. Erin Martinez — Martinez's wife and Irwin's sister — was badly burned.

The families issued a statement Wednesday thanking community members for their support.

Authorities said the Firestone Police Department is investigating their deaths, and Hickenlooper has said the state will look into whether anyone broke state laws or regulations.

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