Erie goes further than the state to prevent another Firestone tragedy

Erie requires operators to map gas pipelines
Posted at 8:31 PM, Sep 13, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-13 22:56:51-04

ERIE, Colo. -- The Town of Erie is going further than the state to prevent another tragedy like the deadly home explosion in Firestone.

Town trustees passed a measure Tuesday night by a vote of 5-1. Trustee Dan Woog voted against it.

The ordinance requires energy companies to provide maps of all new and existing oil and gas pipelines in the town.

Oil operators have until next October to provide the information, which Erie said will be publicly available to residents.

"Local regulations are challenging for our industry -- if all local jurisdictions write their own ordinances, it creates a patchwork for regulatory oversight. We believe legislation at the state level offers a more consistent process," said Jason Oates a spokesperson for Crestone Peak Resources, Erie's largest oil and gas provider. "Our concern is not how the mapping information will be used, but rather on how people with no experience or background interpret the information."

Erie is on the front lines of the fracking debate, with new fracking sites popping up all over town and right next to the homeowners in the Vista Ridge neighborhood.

The town also has hundreds of abandoned wells, which is why what happened in Firestone hit close to home.

"People wondering if there were abandoned lines by their houses. If the same thing could happen to their house," said Town Trustee Jennifer Carroll, who voted in favor of the measure.

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

"It is very concerning and I don't think the state fully knows where everything is," said Carroll.

State lawmakers failed to pass similar mapping legislation earlier this year, and Gov. John Hickenlooper has shied away from the controversial issue.

Many believe Erie's measure is precedent setting, and signals a change on local control over the industry.

"We feel it is legally defensible in our land use authority," explained Carroll.

La Plata County has already passed a similar measure, and Lafayette is also looking at requiring oil and gas pipeline mapping.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Association provided Denver7 the following statement about the measure:

“COGA and its members have a proven track record of collaborating with local governments. While we respect Erie’s right to pass new laws for land use purposes, Town Trustees have waded into areas of operational conflict and have added to a growing patchwork of legally questionable regulations. As conversations about new state regulations are taking place, we would ask local governments to participate in that stakeholder process, rather than pursuing unlawful efforts outside of the scope of their authority.” – Dan Haley, President and CEO, Colorado Oil and Gas Association

Also Wednesday, state regulators released a rough draft of the new rules for oil and gas pipelines.