Reed: Colorado regulators favor oil industry over public safety

Spencer Reed

Colorado regulators aren’t doing enough to ensure that residents are safe from 430 natural gas pipelines that are known to be faulty.

There could be plenty more hazardous gas lines around the state that have yet to be tested. Concern over dangerous oil and gas pipelines has been a rising trend in Colorado ever since a fatal explosion occurred earlier this year in Firstone.

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The explosion occured after a Anadarko Petroleum Co. pipeline had been cut and left open, allowing an abundant amount of methane gas to leak uncontrollably. This led to an explosion that killed two and injuring one in a nearby home. Anadarko, the largest oil and gas producer in Colorado, responded by turning off 3,000 gas wells across the northern part of the state as a precaution.

Governor John Hickenlooper had a response to the incident as well. Hickenlooper demanded that oil and gas operators examine all natural gas wells within 1,000 ft of occupied buildings. A total of 430 of those pipelines failed their leak-detection test. The status of another 13,000 pipelines across the state that were not inspected is still unknown. This is where much of the controversy lies, because Colorado regulators alongside Anadarko oppose revealing oil and gas line maps that would tell the public how close they live to faulty pipelines.

Recently, Colorado regulators made a 14-page proposal that would implement an array of new rules for oil and gas lines. However, a pipeline map was not included in any of the proposed provisions. Instead, the proposal was comprised of rules that would require gas producers to drain their lines when they indefinitely remove them from service. Oil and gas lines like these that are no longer in use would also have to be disconnected and capped on both ends, says the proposal. Operators could avoid all of these policies if they choose to remove unused lines completely. It’s measures such as these that would have prevented the deadly Firestone explosion in April.

Furthermore, the proposed drafts would require energy companies to disclose when operators abandon pipelines in general. Not only that, but if the provisions are to be passed then energy companies would be forced perform pressure tests on low-pressure gas lines.

The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission (COGCC) will be making the decision to follow through with the newest proposed rules in a public hearing, on Dec. 11 and 12.

A timeline of new oil and gas provisions:

The provisions in the proposal would make strides in public safety, but some feel that a pipeline map would have the most effect on protecting the public from faulty gas lines. Gov. Hickenlooper is not one of those people, and is taking the side of the oil and gas industry. The Governor cites the concerns of energy companies who fear that disclosing pipeline maps would deem them vulnerable to illegal siphoning of gas. However, there are plenty more who believe that the assurance of their public safety from faulty gas lines should be more pronounced than the potential siphoning of gas.

Spencer Reed can be reached at letters@collegian.com or on Twitter @Sbreed.