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Colorado oil and gas regulators are now pursuing penalties in deadly 2017 Firestone home explosion

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said it was waiting for a final report on the blast from the NTSB. The report was released on Tuesday.

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Before-and-after photos of the home in Firestone that was destroyed in a 2017 explosion caused by a severed pipeline connected to a nearby oil and gas well. The NTSB said a contributing factor to the incident was local officials’ decision to allow homes to be built near oil and gas drilling facilities without knowing where buried pipelines were. (NTSB photos)

More than two years after a home explosion in Firestone killed two men, Colorado oil and gas regulators said Wednesday they are finally pursuing penalties — likely financial — against a subsidiary of Anadarko Petroleum for its role in the blast.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission said it was waiting for the National Transportation Safety Board’s report on the explosion before initiating an enforcement action against the company. 

“COGCC has not issued a violation in this incident, to date, as we were awaiting the release of the NTSB report should it have had any additional information in it,” said Megan Castle, an agency spokeswoman. 

The NTSB released its final report on Tuesday, ruling that the blast was caused by odorless natural gas that leaked into the home from a severed pipeline attached to a nearby well. The well was dormant until just months before the incident. Federal investigators found the pipeline was likely severed in 2015, during construction of the home.

MORE: Decision to allow homes to be built near oil and gas drilling facilities contributed to fatal Firestone blast, NTSB says

Anadarko obtained the well in October 2013 from Patina Oil and Gas Corp., the NTSB said. 

“In 1999, in preparation for a planned housing development, Patina planned to shut down and remove a production facility to the north of the subject well, abandon the existing underground lines from the subject well to that production facility, and install new flowlines,” the report said. “… However, the original production facility to the north remained in use until 2018 and not all flowlines were properly abandoned, including several of the lines involved in this accident.”

Although a Patina record from 1999 stated the abandonment was completed, COGCC records showed that to be false, federal investigators reported. 

“The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission reviewed the NTSB report released on Oct. 29,” Castle said. “Currently, the COGCC is proceeding with an enforcement against Kerr McGee Oil and Gas Onshore LP and will issue a notice of alleged violation.”

Kerr McGee and Gas Onshore LP is a subsidiary of Anadarko. Anadarko was purchased by Occidental Petroleum earlier this year. 

Regulators say if Kerr McGee and Gas Onshore LP agrees with the alleged violations, then they will be resolved through a consent order that would have to be reviewed and voted on by the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission.

“We are still assessing what are the violations and therefore the associated penalties,” Castle said.

While Anadarko has faced financial consequences from the blast in the form of lawsuits, this will mark the first time it is formally accused of violating Colorado’s oil and gas policies.

The April 17, 2017, explosion killed Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law Joey Irwin. It has been a central focus of the debate on oil and gas safety in Colorado, inspiring new rules and legislation. Martinez’ wife, Erin, was seriously injured in the explosion.

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