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Fatal gas explosion draws widespread regulatory, state, federal attention

May 15th, 2017 by Dakota Software Staff Industry News

Fatal gas explosion draws widespread regulatory, state, federal attention

An explosion in northern Colorado that caused two fatalities and left a third person with serious injuries was tied to a leak in an abandoned pipeline, drawing widespread attention from a variety of state and federal authorities. The Associated Press reported the explosion, which took place in the city of Firestone, Colorado, was ultimately caused by an unused pipeline connected to a nearby gas well.

The explosion destroyed the home and caused damage to a second nearby house. Local fire officials said the pipeline was cut, which let natural gas into the surrounding soil. The gas eventually entered the home's basement and was ignited. The home was fewer than 200 feet from the well.

Regulatory and governmental response

OHS Online said the U.S. Chemical Safety Board sent a team to investigate the leak and subsequent explosion in early May. While the CSB doesn't have direct regulatory powers, it works with businesses, labor organizations and federal regulators like the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Environmental Protection Agency to offer safety recommendations. The investigation is still in its earliest stages, but it could result in significant changes to the operation of natural gas pipelines and other methods of extracting and managing that resource in the form of new safety recommendations.

The state government in Colorado is also taking a major interest in the explosion and the potential dangers exemplified in the accident. A separate Associated Press report said Gov. John Hickenlooper called for his state to have access to comprehensive maps of oil and gas pipelines in an effort to gather more information and avoid incidents similar to the deadly explosion. The governor said such a change could require new lawmaking and was unlikely to occur in 2017 because the Colorado legislative session is almost complete.

Hickenlooper also ordered an inspection of every flow line that is 1,000 feet or closer to an occupied building, a process that will yield additional information about the state of oil and natural gas pipelines in Colorado. However, it's currently unclear whether that information alone is enough to develop the comprehensive map the governor wants to create.

These developments may trigger broader regulatory changes on the state or federal level - although it's too early to understand exactly what those changes, if any, could be. For oil and natural gas companies, staying abreast of such issues and considering the value of safety management solutions to aid in handling changing regulations is vital.

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