GREELEY, Colo. (CBS4) – After state law makers mandated the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee to further prioritize the safety of humans in their rules and regulations, the committee has traveled the state to hear from the public on how they could do so. One of the key testimonies came from Erin Martinez, a widow who lost her husband and brother in an explosion.
Martinez was in her Firestone home in April of 2017 when it exploded. Her husband, and brother, were in the basement working on a water heater. They were unaware a leaking gas flowline from Anadarko Petroleum filled their property with odorless gasses, leading to the explosion.
After years of rehabilitation, therapy and mourning, Martinez was able to share her tragic story with the COGCC in hope of sparking further change.
“I was immediately thrown in to the air, and the entire house was crumbling on top of me. I was trapped,” Martinez said. “Moments later the entire house was engulfed in flames. Our homes are supposed to be our safe havens. We shouldn’t have to worry about them exploding.”
The NTSB later released the results of their investigation, sourcing neglect on behalf of Anadarko for the tragedy. Though regulations were in place to cap the nearby lines, that didn’t stop the danger.
Following her loss, the state created Senate Bill 181, which requires the COGCC to make sure their regulations are protective of, and prioritize, people.
“[SB181 said] we should ensure that our regulation of oil and gas is protective of people,” said Jeff Robbins, Director of Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.
While the COGCC has moved to create further protections for humans, Martinez hoped they would go a step further to prevent possible tragedies in the future. While current standards have been improved from before, Martinez hoped the COGCC would require the oil and gas industry to completely remove flowlines from the ground once they abandon a well.
“This is the only way to prevent them from causing future devastation,” Martinez said. “Mark and Joey are dead because a line was not properly abandoned. And, it was allowed to be left in the ground.”
“We are listening to communities, and we are listening to people, as we implement this mandate,” Robbins told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.
Robbins noted, currently, the COGCC understands where flowlines start and end, but often times do not have a mapped out version of where the lines flow between.”
“(Under new guidelines) we will have a true understanding of all flowline locations within the State of Colorado,” Robbins said. “That data will be publically available to citizens across the State of Colorado so they can have a better understanding of flowline locations, and they can have an understanding to call 811 before they start excavating.”
Martinez encouraged the COGCC to also require that mapping to have an accuracy of within one meter.
“Mark and Joey deserved better. My children deserve better. We all deserve better. Thank you,” Martinez said.