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Colorado: new pipeline rules to follow fatal explosion

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World Pipelines,

Colorado regulators have released an outline for new rules governing oil and gas pipelines after a fatal house explosion blamed on a gas leak.

Colorado regulators made public a rough outline yesterday for new rules for oil and gas pipelines after a fatal house explosion blamed on a natural gas leak.

The state Oil and Gas Conservation Commission's outline calls for new standards for designing, testing and permanently shutting down flow lines, which carry oil or gas from wells to tanks and other gathering equipment.

The commission's staff plans to complete draft rules by 15 October after meetings with interested groups on 21 and 22 September.

A formal public hearing is scheduled for 11 and 12 December and the commission could vote on adopting the rules after that.

The rules are in response to an April explosion in the town of Firestone that killed two people and injured a third.

Investigators blamed the explosion on odorless, unrefined natural gas leaking from a flowline that was thought to be out of service but was still connected to a well with the valve turned to the open position.

The house that exploded was within 200 ft (60 m) of the gas well, and the flowline was severed about 10 ft (3 m) from the house, officials said.

Investigators said gas seeped into the home's basement.

The well and pipeline were in place several years before the house was built.

The proximity of homes to wells and pipelines is a contentious issue in Colorado, where the booming Front Range urban corridor overlaps with an oil and gas field.

The new rules would require oil and gas operators to provide information about flowlines to the existing Call 811 programe, which marks the location of underground utilities at a property owner's request.

After the Firestone explosion, Gov. John Hickenlooper and other state officials considered compiling a map of all flowlines and posting it online. Hickenlooper ruled that out last month, citing concerns about security and theft of oil and gas.

The effort to overhaul the state’s pipeline rules is occurring as local municipalities tackle pipeline issues on their own before the state acts. Erie’s Board of Trustees this week passed a new ordinance requiring oil and gas operators to map their pipelines throughout that town, the Boulder Daily Camera reported. A similar statewide mapping plan was rejected by state legislators with Republicans siding with industry representatives, who had raised objections.

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