On April 17, a home in Firestone, Colorado erupted in a violent blast, killing two people and badly burning a third. The explosion killed Joseph William Irwin III and his brother-in-law Mark Martinez. It also seriously injured Martinez’s wife, Erin. Though investigators from Firestone have yet to determine a cause for the explosion, the scope of their investigation extends to a vertical well operated by Anadarko Petroleum located about 200 feet from the home.
The well’s proximity to the home combined with Texas-based Anadarko Petroleum’s decision to close and inspect 3,000 of its vertical wells across the state have combined to form a real publicity problem for the oil and gas industry as a whole.
It seems that for lack of a proper culprit, a convenient scapegoat will do.
Pointing the Finger at Anadarko
More than two weeks after the tragedy in Firestone, the community of 10,000 is still searching for answers where none seemed to have turned up. The outside world, meanwhile, is looking in and drawing their own conclusions in the absences of real answers. In the wake of the terrible tragedy that ended two lives, it is a nearby vertical well that has drawn most of the suspicion.
Okay, sure, we’ll grant you that it looked fishy when Anadarko Petroleum decided to shut down and inspect 3,000 of its vertical wells in the wake of the disaster, but that act alone shouldn’t be enough to convict a company that was considered one of the industry’s leading innovators ten days prior to the unexplained catastrophe.
Now, however, the once promising producer is caught in the midst of a larger oil and gas debate raging around the state of Colorado.
More Colorado Well Shut Down
In recent months, Colorado has served as the frontline of the debate over fracking and the perceived environmental threat the oil and gas industry poses. The fight has largely been waged in the form a lawsuit filed against the city of Boulder after they posed an illegal ban on the practice.
The tragedy in Firestone is now being used as emotional ammunition in that battle. That was obvious enough when Boulder County — located 20 miles west of Firestone — issued a public statement asking all energy companies to follow Anadarko in shutting down an inspecting 300 wells in the county. Nearby Adams County requested that its wells be inspected, but not shut down.
These actions came even after state regulators said there was no evidence to date that suggested the residents of Firestone were in any danger.
Politics Is Obscuring the Truth
In the weeks following the explosion, every kind of potential flaw in Anadarko’s well has been bubbling to the surface. Provocative headlines that seem to cast Anadarko as the malicious oil and gas baron reveal in their text that the company has never had a problem with safety, that the well in question has been well-maintained and received consistent “Satisfactory” ratings.
None of this scrutiny has led investigators any closer to the real source of the Firestone explosion. It’s only served as a means for oil and gas opponents to fuel the flames of their political agenda.