On Tuesday, Governor John Hickenlooper ordered inspections for every gas and oil line in Colorado that lies within 1,000 feet of an occupied building.
The order comes in response to the Frederick-Firestone Fire Department’s conclusion that a leaking gas line was to blame for a home explosion in Firestone that killed two people on April 17.
In 2016, the state inspected more than 40,000 gas and oil lines, but there could be thousands more that are unaccounted for.
Prior to 2008, companies did not have to include flow lines in their well applications, meaning some wells could have one line while others could have four, all without a comprehensive list from the state.
“One of the major questions that comes out of this for me is do we need to look at the regulatory oversight for the pipes that run out of these wells,” said Rocky Mountain PBS reporter Dan Boyce, who writes reports for Inside Energy.
The governor’s order aims to fill that gap by tallying each flowline in Colorado, granted there is no ‘master list’ to cross reference these new inspections with.
The directive would also require that every abandoned gas line is properly cut, drained, filled, and sealed.
In 2001, Colorado made its sealing requirements more comprehensive, but it did not force operators to re-seal its abandoned lines that were closed off prior to the change.
The Hickenlooper’s orders require every operator to go back to every one of its abandoned lines, regardless of its age, and properly drain, fill and seal it.
The unprecedented nature of April’s home explosion is one of the many reasons why there are some loopholes in the state’s regulations.
“You have an oil and gas boom and you have a housing boom that are both happening in lock and step,” Boyce explained. “There are complications that are going to arise from that and we're seeing the result of those complications right now.”
For its part, Broomfield is asking all well operators to send them copies of their updated emergency plans for well sites in the city, including the location of emergency shut off valves.
They plan to discuss the measures further at their city council meeting on May 9.
As for oil and gas line operators, the governor has given them 30 days to assess their lines, and 60 days to make appropriate adjustments.