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COGCC's director says Firestone could have and should have been prevented

Developer had it on a map for relocation
Posted at 6:46 PM, Feb 13, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-14 10:47:18-05

DENVER — The head of the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission revealed new details about what lead up to the deadly home explosion in Firestone and said the developer knew about the flowlines that caused the blast.

"That's one of those things we might not ever understand, why that didn't happen. Those flowlines were on a map that the developer had, and they were marked to be relocated," COGCC Executive Director Matt Lepore said.

Investigators found the explosion in Firestone was caused by an uncapped gas line from a nearby existing well that had been leaking non-odorous gas into the family's home for months.

On Tuesday, Lepore also laid out finalized rules to tighten regulations on flowlines in the state.

"Having an accountable system for where those makes sense," Lepore said.

Community members have demanded public maps of every gas pipeline in the state.

They didn't get that, but Lepore said they tried to compromise with community demands and operator concerns.

Under the new rules, oil and gas operators are required to provide GPS data for all new flowlines in the state.

COGCC plans to use the data to map their locations, but those maps will only be available to local governments and not the public. The agency is also asking local governments to sign confidentiality agreements to ensure the information stays private.

"I think the confidentiality agreement for us was to just formalize this process, that we have said that the agency will use its best efforts, to the extent that the law allows, not to disclose the information provided to us by operators … when the operator tells us that information is confidential," Lepore explained.

Lepore said the idea behind providing the local governments this location data is to help better plan for future developments and ensure first responders know where the pipelines are during emergencies.

COGCC will publish data on its website about where existing flowlines start and end, but it won't show where they go in between those points.

"If it runs in a straight line or if it zigs back and forth," Lepore said.

Lepore explained the industry has concerns about trade secrets and security when asked why the state is not making the maps of new flowlines public.

Operators have until October 2019 to register existing lines with the state and 811, the call before you dig system.

The draft rules, which the commission voted to finalize Tuesday, comeafter the commission heard from community members, stakeholders, and industry representatives during another hearing in January.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association represents the oil and gas industry in the state. It's president and CEO, Dan Haley, released the following statement:

These new oversight requirements keep Colorado at the front of the pack nationally, with challenging, first-of-their-kind regulations that push the envelope for our oil and gas industry. It’s important that Coloradans know our industry is regulated and that our members work every day to produce the energy we all need each day in safe and environmentally responsible ways. It’s also important that Coloradans not only feel safe, but that they can see the proactive steps being taken to ensure that safety.