NewsCovering Colorado


$18 million fine sought in fatal Firestone home explosion

Posted at 3:19 PM, Mar 14, 2020

DENVER (AP) — Colorado regulators on Thursday proposed a fine of more than $18 million against an Occidental Petroleum Corp. subsidiary for a fatal 2017 house explosion linked to a severed oil and gas well flowline.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will formally consider the proposed fine against Kerr-McGee Corp. on April 6, The Denver Post reported.

Commission director Jeff Robbins announced the proposed fine, which would be the largest ever sought by the agency. The fine would help fund monitoring of oil and gas flowlines and air emissions, the agency said.

Occidental said it would not contest the fine and, in a statement, noted that part of the penalty will fund “projects that aim to strengthen safety and best practices for the industry and for all Coloradans living near oil and gas operations.

“We will work with the COGCC on those projects,” Occidental said.

Federal investigators said in November that the explosion in the Weld County town of Firestone occurred after lines then owned by Anadarko Petroleum likely were severed during the home’s construction.

Kerr-McGee was a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum, which was later purchased by Occidental.

The National Transportation Safety Board found that flowlines near the home weren’t properly abandoned. Anadarko acquired the well the line was connected to in 2013.

Investigators blamed odorless gas seeping from a long-abandoned flowline just feet away from the home. They found that, despite being abandoned, the line was connected to an operating well. Its existence was unknown to regulators or developers of the neighborhood where the home was built.

The blast killed two people and injured a third. The state began requiring inspections of underground flowlines near occupied buildings.

In November, Colorado regulators approved a set of safety measures designed to increase citizen protections in areas surrounding thousands of miles of underground oil and gas pipelines in the state.

Killed in the explosion were Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin. Erin Martinez, Mark’s wife and Irwin’s sister, was badly burned.

“No amount of penalty or fine is ever going to take away our immense pain and suffering nor bring Mark and Joey back,” Erin Martinez said in a statement Thursday.