Debate Over Access to Well Blast Site

Monday, April 14, 2014 @ 05:04 PM gHale


Chevron Appalachia, the owner of a Greene County, PA, gas well, blocked state regulators from the site when a wellhead exploded and killed a worker, Pennsylvania state officials said.

In a letter made public this week, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) charged Chevron Appalachia with failing to provide access to a permitted facility and eight other regulatory violations connected to the Feb. 11 explosion at the Lanco well pad in Dunkard.

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“We wanted to have our emergency response vehicles where theirs were. They did not immediately permit that,” department spokesman John Poister said Thursday. “We wanted to be part of the discussions, and that didn’t happen.

“It wasn’t until Secretary (Christopher) Abruzzo arrived the next day that things began to open up.”

Chevron did not allow anyone near the pad while it burned, according to a statement issued by spokesman Trip Oliver. The company said it was “evaluating” the DEP’s charges.

“Chevron’s first priority was to ensure the safety of all responders and prevent additional injuries,” the company said. “For that reason, access to the Lanco site during the initial stages of the incident was restricted. At Chevron’s request, the Pennsylvania State Police established an access control point near the pad.”

Poister said the company responded to the March 18 letter and “they don’t agree necessarily with our contentions.” Regulators will meet with company officials soon.

The DEP’s investigation continues and Poister said the company’s actions on the first day did not harm that review, which is focusing on interviewing workers and others involved, and reviewing documents.

“We are determined to prevent this from happening again and are committed to sharing the results of the investigation when it is complete,” the company said.

The explosion at the Lanco 7H well killed Ian McKee, 27, of Warren, a field service technician for Cameron International, a subcontractor working at the Marcellus shale site. The resulting fires at the 7H and 6H wells burned for about five days as escaping gas continued to ignite on hot, damaged equipment. Crews capped the wells on Feb. 23 and 25.

State police said they turned over findings from their investigation to Greene County Coroner Greg Rohanna.

The other eight violations in the DEP letter involve failing to prevent the fires and blowout, and allowing them and the release of gas and other hazardous products.

Poister said it is too early to say what potential penalties Chevron might face.



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