Firestone blast prompts Colorado bill to require disclosure of pipelines

In the wake of a deadly explosion that killed two, injured a third and leveled their home in Firestone, legislation filed today at Colorado’s Capitol would require public notice by oil-and-gas drillers of underground pipelines tied to their operations.

House Bill 1372 would require oil and gas operators to “give electronic notice … of the location of each subsurface oil and gas facility associated with an oil and gas facility installed, owned, or operated by the operator” to the Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission and each local government jurisdiction in which any oil and gas operation is located.

The bill also requires the state commission to post the information on its website for public access through a searchable database.

(ColoradoPolitics.com obtained a draft of the bill prior to its introduction in the House by Democratic state Reps. Mike Foote, of Lafayette, and Steve Lebsock, of Thornton.)

Investigators have pinned the April 17 blast, in a recently built Firestone housing tract, on odorless, unrefined natural gas that had been leaking from an old, severed underground pipeline. As reported by the Associated Press earlier this week:

The line was believed to be abandoned but was still connected to a gas well with a valve turned to the open position, investigators said.

The underground flow line was was 1 inch (2.5 centimeters) in diameter and had been severed within 10 feet (3 meters) of the home, officials said. Investigators said they do not know when or how the line was cut.

State regulations require abandoned lines to be disconnected and capped. Investigators have said they do not know why that was not done.

Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday called for comprehensive mapping of such pipelines and said that might require legislation, but he expressed doubt it could happen before the conclusion next week of the current legislative session.

It now turns out it might happen after all. Lebsock, reached for comment, said, “We’re going to be responsive to the needs of local government” in identifying potentially hazardous pipelines.

He stressed he and his co-sponsor are “willing to work” with all stakeholders, including the industry, the state and local governments in getting the eventual wording of the bill right. Lebsock expressed concern about the draft language being circulated in advance of the bill’s formal introduction, suggesting the wording is not final and is open to wide-ranging input through amendments.

Lebsock declined further comment prior to a news conference on the bill at the Capitol.

It’s not clear how the oil and gas industry will respond to the proposal. Colorado Petroleum Association Executive Director Angie Binder deferred comment until she could confer with association members for their analysis of the bill’s potential impact.

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