$18 million penalty issued over 2017 Colorado gas explosion



The state of Colorado has levied a more than $18 million penalty against Anadarko Petroleum, now a subsidiary of Occidental Petroleum and Kerr McGee,formerly of Oklahoma City, over a 2017 natural gas explosion that killed two men while they were working on a house.

The $18.25 million penalty was issued over rules violations regulating the gas line that led to the home according to the Denver Business Journal.

The combination of fines and other penalties paid by the company, formerly called Anadarko Petroleum Corp. and Kerr-McGee Oil and Gas, were the most the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission could levy for the four rules violations.

Erin Martinez, who survived the blast that killed her husband and brother, expressed appreciation for fines and safety efforts they’ll fund, but she said it’s hard for family members to accept that it’s the best outcome from the tragedy.

“Had you done your job correctly, my husband, my children’s father, and my brother would be alive today,” she said to the company during online testimony to the COGCC.

Included in the overall penalty is $7.4 million worth of increased methane-detection and leak monitoring that Occidental Petroleum Corp. will fund. That includes paying for aerial surveys to find Denver-Julesburg Basin oilfield methane leaks, a mobile emissions-monitoring van for the state to use along with two years of its operations, and buying the state new optical imaging cameras that are used to find smaller methane leaks.

“We think this is a good use of the penalty money,” said Jeff Robbins, director of the COGCC.

The money will be routed through a new, dedicated COGCC fund called the Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin Memorial Public Projects Fund.

Investigators concluded that a buried 1-inch steel flowline connected to an oil and gas well 178 feet away from the Firestone home had been severed for years and incorrectly documented as plugged. When the well was turned on in early 2017, it leaked explosive unscented natural gas through the soil and into the basement of the home at 6312 Twilight Ave.

“How exactly are we supposed to put a dollar figure to the lives of two remarkable men?” she asked Monday. “No amount of money can bring them back or lessen the intense amount of pain.”

Occidental cooperated in the enforcement action and didn’t fight the penalty. The company on Monday offered condolences to the Martinez and Irwin families, said Mark Matthews, attorney for Occidental Petroleum in the case. He also thanked local Firestone-area first responders for their work after the explosion and said the company will continue taking steps to ensuring nothing like the 2017 explosion happens again.

Anadarko Petroleum, acquired last year by Houston-based Occidental Petroleum, reached a legal settlement in 2018 with Erin Martinez and other family members over the accident.

It is the largest oil and gas producer in Colorado.

Source: Denver Business Journal