A Colorado woman whose husband and brother were killed in a natural gas explosion two years ago spoke publicly in support of reforming and strengthening safety, health, and environmental regulations governing the gas industry statewide.
Erin Martinez was at her home in Firestone, Colorado with her son, husband, and brother when an accumulation of natural gas from a broken subterranean line ignited, causing a massive explosion that destroyed the house.
Ms. Martinez remembers “being blown through the air and trapped between falling debris.” Her son also managed to crawl out of the wreckage, but her husband and brother didn’t survive the blast. They had been working in the basement of the home when the gas explosion occurred.
Anadarko, the owner of the damaged gas well at the center of the explosion, reached a settlement with the families last May for an undisclosed amount.
Joined by Colorado Governor Jared Polis and several state legislators, Ms. Martinez told the press that Anadarko and other energy corporations must do more to ramp up safety. The well that caused the natural gas explosion was 200 feet from their home yet had gone untested and uninspected for months.
“I understand that no one ever intended for this to happen. I have no desire to destroy an industry. Lots of good people depend on this industry for their livelihoods. I respect that,” Ms. Martinez said. “However, with great tragedy should also come great change. Human life should come first. The only way to make sure that this never happens again is to learn from this tragedy and create safer regulations and guidelines that put human safety first.”
According to Denver’s 9News, Gov. Polis and lawmakers are proposing changes to oil and gas industry regulations around the state that would empower communities to “take control over what is happening in their own backyards.”
“Right now, oil and gas laws in Colorado tilt heavily toward the industry. We are going to correct that tilt so that health, safety, and environment are no longer ignored by state agencies,” Colorado House Speaker KC Becker said. “This bill would also ensure that local governments have a greater ability to represent the interests of the people they serve.”
9News explained that under existing Colorado law and court decisions, “the first priority of regulators is fostering the oil and gas industry, not protecting health and safety. And only the state can regulate the industry, not local governments.”
After the explosion, Ms. Martinez searched for a home that wasn’t near any natural gas wells. She found one that industry officials assured her wasn’t near any active wells. Months later, oil and gas industry crews started excavating the land around her in search of an abandoned well. They ultimately located it in her neighbor’s backyard. Ms. Martinez says because of this, she and her son are in the process of moving again and she is “trying to get [her] son to trust that this time, it will be okay.”