Firestone Gas Explosion Penalty Announced: Energy Company Faces $18M Fine
(CBS4) - The Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Committee on Thursday announced a penalty of $18.25 million for the 2017 gas explosion that killed two people and injured two others when it destroyed a house in Firestone. The fine is being leveled at Anadarko (now part of Occidental Petroleum) and a hearing will be held on April 6 for the order to be finalized. It's the largest enforcement penalty ever sought by the COGCC.
Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin were killed in the explosion and Erin Martinez was badly hurt nearly three years ago. Her son was also hurt.
Mark and Joey were in the basement of the home working on a water heater in April 2017. They were unaware a leaking gas flowline filled their property with odorless gases, leading to the explosion.
Anadarko Petroleum was acquired by Occidental last year. An investigation by the National Transportation Board sourced neglect on behalf of the oil and gas company for the tragedy. Although regulations were in place to cap the nearby lines, that didn't stop the danger.
The COGCC says a large portion of the fine money is set to go towards Colorado projects that will increase public safety surrounding "oil and gas flowline monitoring and air emissions."
Erin Martinez is expected to speak at the April 6 hearing. Through a spokesperson, she said on Thursday she is "relieved that this has come before the third anniversary of the explosion."
She recently underwent another surgery and has had more than 30 so far.
Martinez also released the following statement:
"No amount of penalty or fine is ever going to take away our immense pain and suffering nor bring Mark and Joey back. We have to wake up every morning and go to bed every night living with this horrific nightmare. Our lives are forever changed. It is hard to comprehend that the only recourse is a penalty or a fine, how do you put a price on human life? However, legally that is all that can be done. Almost three years later there is finally some accountability. I am encouraged to see the COGCC enact its new role to protect the public health and today's action sends a message that Colorado won't tolerate risky, negligent behavior that endangers our families' ability to live safely in our own homes. The penalty itself will be used to put practices in place that will hopefully prevent future similar tragedies. The prevention of a future tragedy is a great way to honor both Mark and Joey. I appreciate the COGCC hard work and dedication in creating this fine and look forward to seeing the penalty at work in keeping us all safer."
Occidental released the following statement about Thursday's action.
"We are mindful of the events of April 17, 2017, every day, and our thoughts continue to be with the families, friends and communities affected by the Firestone tragedy. We respect the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's (COGCC) role in investigating this tragedy, and we will not contest the fines, nor the violations. Part of the penalty will include a commitment to fund a variety of public projects that aim to strengthen safety and best practices for the industry and for all Coloradans living near oil and gas operations. We will work with the COGCC on those projects. Throughout this tragedy, Anadarko cooperated with all local and federal agencies that investigated the accident. In that same cooperative spirit, we will continue to work with the state, listen to our stakeholders and collaborate with the communities around us."
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