The Home Front: Colorado newspapers localize the response to a gas-line home explosion

“It was 2015 and the oil and gas industry was booming in Greeley and all of Weld County,” reports The Greeley Tribune. “City officials were starting to get more applications for drilling in city limits, and residents were starting to voice concerns about the industrial scenes in their backyards. It was pioneer time. City officials developed a new inspection program that is at the forefront of the state. “We were starting to get lot of questions and inquiries to what we were doing and our capabilities in the response and prevention areas,” said Dale Lyman, Greeley’s fire chief. “We all just thought this was the right thing to do.” Greeley’s oil and gas inspection program, Lyman said, provides that additional layer of oversight. While it may or may not have prevented the issue that resulted in a home explosion in Firestone on April 17, the philosophy is any additional inspection makes it that much safer.”

“Colorado oil and gas operators on Wednesday began the work of complying with an emergency order to check pipelines following a fatal blast, while local activists said the incident bolsters their call for better protecting nearby residents from energy development,” reports The Grand Junction Daily Sentinel. “Gov. John Hickenlooper ordered the review of pipelines Tuesday after an investigation determined that a home explosion in Firestone that killed two men April 17 was caused by a plastic line that had been severed within 10 feet of the house. The line is associated with a well less than 200 feet from the home. He also wants a statewide map of all oilfield pipelines. “I think a lot of people have felt for years that it will take some people getting killed before we get the attention of the politicians and the regulators. Perhaps this will give more momentum to efforts to provide additional controls and safety regulations for drilling in communities,” said Dave Devanney of the group Battlement Concerned Citizens, which has been concerned about drilling Ursa Resources has begun doing in the residential community of Battlement Mesa.”

“Longmont will evaluate the conditions of abandoned and plugged oil and gas wells within its boundaries — and any still-in-place underground pipelines associated with those wells — in light of the latest information about the probable cause of the fatal April 17 explosion in Firestone,” reports The Longmont Times-Call. “Longmont City Manager Harold Dominguez told City Council members on Tuesday night that city staff will be starting the process of evaluating the safety of those wells and pipelines. “We have no indication that there are any issues” with plugged-and-abandoned wells and pipelines inside Longmont and on any city-owned properties outside Longmont, Dominguez said Wednesday morning.”

“Republican sponsors of a wide-ranging energy bill have substantially erased those sections that would have allowed Black Hills Energy and Xcel Energy to hand the cost of acquiring natural gas reserves to rate payers,” reports The Pueblo Chieftain. “Senate Bill 301 was passed by the Senate Agriculture, Natural Resources and Energy Committee today on a 6-5 party-line vote, but not before GOP backers said they didn’t intend to hand those costs to ratepayers. Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, said it wasn’t his intention to increase ratepayer costs and he amended the bill to remove that portion that would have forced the Colorado Public Utilities Commission to do that.”

“Fort Collins’ lone oil and gas operator is planning state-mandated inspections of oil and gas gathering lines near a north Fort Collins subdivision after a fatal Weld County home explosion was found to be caused by a cut gas line,” reports The Coloradoan in Fort Collins. “The Firestone explosion, which killed two people and critically injured another April 17, inspired operator Anadarko Petroleum to temporarily shut down about 3,000 older vertical wells in northeast Colorado out of “an abundance of caution.”

“The Thompson School District’s 2017-2018 preliminary budget shows a $1 million reduction than previously planned — and that could mean the potential for layoffs, dollars diverted from infrastructure needs and even school closures,” reports The Loveland Reporter-Herald. “Some of that comes from the uncertainty in how much state funding the district will receive, which in turn means the district will be using less of its reserves based on that uncertainty, according to Chief Financial Officer Gordon Jones. Jones presented preliminary budget information Wednesday night to the Board of Education with more information to be presented May 17.”

“The sole student sitting in the chancellor’s office building on the University of Colorado Boulder campus was kicked out and threatened with arrest Wednesday evening after the student group Fossil Free CU had been occupying the private building for nearly a week,” reports The Boulder Daily Camera. “Lior Gross, a sophomore, shook while sharing details of the event, which left the group feeling “angry and betrayed.” Two campus administrators entered the chancellor’s office late Wednesday afternoon when Gross was the only activist left in the building and said the group had two minutes to gather its belongings and get out, or Gross could face arrest, Gross said. Administrators presented Gross with a nearly identical letter from Chancellor Phil DiStefano, which the student group advocating for fossil fuel divestment had been given Tuesday.”

“A Fremont County Sheriff’s Office deputy has been arrested after concerns of child abuse were brought to the attention of the sheriff’s office,” reports The Cañon City Daily Record. “According to a news release from FCSO, Cpl. Brandon Tilley was arrested Wednesday and is being charged with misdemeanor child abuse and third-degree assault. Brandon Tilley’s spouse, Katherine Tilley, also has been arrested and is being charged with misdemeanor child abuse. The news release states the FCSO received information concerning possible child abuse Monday.”

“In advocating ‘pot for potholes,’ recreational marijuana proponents promised a potent new revenue source for tackling a familiar urban headache,” reports The Gazette in Colorado Springs. “But in Manitou Springs, the only Pikes Peak region community so far to permit recreational pot shops, the cash infusion has meant more than road repairs. Just more than two years after Manitou opened the first of its two retail pot stores in the wake of voter-approved legalization, community leaders credit a booming pot trade for driving a resurgence in the city’s finances — helping to double Manitou’s general fund after back-to-back natural disasters, bankrolling long-hoped-for improvements in its gritty eastern corridor and easing the financial path toward preparing for future disasters.”

“Facing community demands for greater caution, Gov. John Hickenlooper on Wednesday called the fatal house explosion caused by a severed oil and gas industry flowline “a tragedy of immense intensity” and doubled down on his order to make sure it never happens again,” reports The Denver Post. “But state officials simultaneously are mounting a legal challenge to the recent Colorado Court of Appeals ruling requiring protection of public health, safety and the environment as a precondition before oil and gas production can proceed. Hickenlooper said in a meeting with reporters at his office that oil and gas operators already using infra-red devices to detect air pollution at wellheads could use those same devices to inspect flowlines to detect gas leaks.”