DENVER (CBS4) – Calling it a “tragedy of immense intensity,” Gov. John Hickenlooper says he is directing employees across the state of Colorado to respond with “a great state of urgency” to the news that leaking gas from a truncated natural gas flowline caused the explosion at a home in Firestone.
A day after ordering a statewide review of existing oil and gas operations, Hickenlooper says he’s doing everything he can to reassure residents statewide that their homes that are near gas flow lines are safe.
“We’re going to check flowlines across the state,” Hickenlooper said on Wednesday. “Anything that’s remotely close to a house, we’re going to check. And trust me, that’s just the priority; eventually we’ll check every flowline.”
Shortly after Tuesday morning’s announcement by officials in Firestone that leaking underground gas caused the explosion that killed two people, Hickenlooper ordered that inspections of flowlines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings must occur within 30 days and be tested for integrity in 60 days.
“The goal here is to move as quickly as we possibly can,” he said.
Hickenlooper says he realizes the sudden review will mean the devotion of a lot of time and money for energy companies in the state, but that “I think everybody realizes the severity of the situation.”
“We are hopeful that this will be a unique situation, that this is a one-time occurrence, but until we can be absolutely sure of that, we’re going to go above and beyond all for requirements for safety.”
The statewide review is meant to ensure the following requirements are met:
– Any natural gas line not in use is properly marked and capped.
– All abandoned lines are cut below the surface and sealed.
– Lines that have been either abandoned or are not in use must be inspected within 30 days and abandoned under current rules within 60 days.
There have been other previous explosions. For example, in 2007 a blast at an abandoned well in Las Animas County injured several people. There have been other similar explosions — one in La Plata County.
Elise Jones is a commissioner in Boulder County.
“Oil and gas is an intensive, dangerous industrial activity that doesn’t belong near homes or neighborhoods,” she told CBS4.
Lisa Herrera lives across the street from where the Firestone explosion occurred. She says she is more concerned for the family impacted by the blast than the safety issue right now.
“I still love my home. I still love my neighborhood. I still deeply love my community … it’s shown me such compassion,” Herrera said.
The question has become, can homes and energy workings co-exist? CBS4’s Rick Sallinger asked the governor about whether there should be “no build zones.”
“We going to have a rich discussion. In the short we’re going to see immediately counties and municipalities going to push it back,” Hickenlooper said. “But I think there will be discussion whether we shouldn’t have some sort of statewide regulations around that,” he replied.