Exploded home was built 178 feet from oil well


Mike Lee and Mike Soraghan, E&E News reporters

Published: Friday, April 28, 2017

Rubble lies around the site of a home explosion in Firestone, Colo. Photo courtesy of @JamieALeary/CBS4 via Twitter.

An explosion at a home in Colorado, which killed two people and prompted the state’s biggest oil producer to shut down some of its wells, has highlighted the tension between Colorado’s flourishing oil business and its rapid housing development.

It’s still unclear exactly what caused the April 17 explosion at a home in Firestone, about 35 miles northeast of Denver. But the home was built in 2015, 178 feet from an existing well that was drilled in 1993, and both politicians and activists say it shows the uneasy balance between the building boom and the energy boom.

Regulators at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission impose a 500-foot setback between new oil and gas wells and existing homes. But they don’t control how closely new homes are built to existing oil wells, Director Matt Lepore said yesterday.

That’s left up to local governments, and Firestone requires a 150-foot buffer when a home is built near an existing well, according to the town website.

“This subdivision was built after this well was put in — the subdivision moved south slowly toward the well,” Lepore said in a news conference broadcast on the web.

Weld County, which includes Firestone, was the fourth fastest-growing county in the United States last year, according to the Greeley Tribune. At the same time, the county was also home to 42 percent of Colorado’s 54,000 active wells, according to the county Planning and Building Department.

The issue isn’t new. Homes and business have encroached on existing oil fields in Oklahoma, California, New Mexico and Texas, in addition to Colorado.

Gap in the regulatory system?

When the shale gas boom pushed drilling into urban areas around Fort Worth, Texas, in the mid-2000s, many of them adopted “reverse setbacks” that regulate the distance between new construction and existing gas wells. Fort Worth settled on 300 feet.

It was a tricky political issue, said Jim Bradbury, an attorney who served on a task force that helped write Fort Worth’s drilling ordinance. Regular setbacks anger drillers, while reverse setbacks anger developers, who are often politically powerful in the cities where they operate.

“It’s important to have a setback both ways, the principle is the same,” he said. “When you say there’s going to be a reverse setback, developers get agitated. They view that as taking their property.”

Firestone explosion site

Map of Firestone explosion site

[+] The Firestone, Colo., neighborhood where a house explosion killed two people and injured a third last week. The oil and gas well next to the home has been shut down as authorities investigate whether it had anything to do with the blast. Anadarko Petroleum Corp. has shut down 3,000 similar wells in northeastern Colorado as a precaution. Map data copyright 2017 Google.

Shane Davis, who runs the Fracktivist.com website in Colorado, said he’s been concerned about the potential danger of older oil wells for a long time. It’s one of the reasons he moved out of Firestone, he said.

“The big question is, why isn’t the COGCC doing anything about this to protect communities?” Davis said. “Why isn’t there a state law demanding, preventing home developers from developing closer than any setbacks that the state … has?”

At the same time, most of the debate in Colorado has centered on how to regulate new oil and gas wells. The question of setbacks between new homes and older wells “could well be” a gap in the regulatory system, said Sam Mamet, executive director of the Colorado Municipal League, a nonprofit coalition of cities and towns.

“This could be something to look at in concert with the commission, the operators, and other interested parties,” Mamet wrote in an email.

The explosion happened in a rapidly growing suburban area near the intersection of two major streets. The home belonged to Mark Martinez, a local water department foreman and his wife, Erin Martinez, a teacher, according to local media reports. Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law Joey Erwin died in the explosion, and Erin Martinez was severely burned (Energywire, April 27).

The Firestone fire department is leading the investigation into the explosion and will determine the cause of the fire.

Anadarko Petroleum Corp., which owns the well near the Martinez home, said it would shut in all 3,000 of its vertical wells in northeastern Colorado that were drilled in the early 1990s as a precautionary measure while it conducts safety tests.

Lepore said all seven wells in the Oak Meadows subdivision, where the explosion occurred, have been shut in. The COGCC hired a contractor to test the air in the subdivision for fugitive gas, and another contractor will test the soil in the area for evidence of hydrocarbons.

“COGCC believes there is no immediate threat to the public associated with oil and gas operations in the neighborhood,” Lepore said.

Previous damage

Colorado has had other instances when oil and gas wells damaged homes.

Gas from pre-World War II wells was blamed for a February 2005 explosion that destroyed a house near Durango and injured its owner. State officials had already tried three times to plug old wells in the area. They spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on their fourth try.

In 2007, an operator agreed to shut down gas wells near a housing development around Walsenburg in southern Colorado after an explosion blew the roof off a water well house.

The well close to the Martinez’s house, named the “Coors V 6-14Ji,” produced both oil and gas. It was drilled in 1993 for Gerrity Oil & Gas Corp. and had surface casing down to 571 feet.

It was acquired by Noble Energy, which sold it in 2014 to Kerr-McGee Corp., which by then had been bought by Anadarko.

It was inspected by COGCC staff in 1994, 2000, 2004 and 2009 and 2014. It was rated satisfactory the last four times. State records don’t show any spills from the well or any complaints about it.

The 2014 inspection noted that it was producing only intermittently.

The encroachment of houses on oil and gas development in northeastern Colorado was documented last year in a study by the Colorado School of Public Health.

The study found that by 2012, under one-fifth of the population in the Denver-Julesburg Basin drilling area lived within a mile of an oil and gas well. The reason, the study said, was that houses were being built near wells.

“The bottom line is, we shouldn’t be building homes, schools and hospital next to” oil and gas sites, said Christine Berg, the mayor of Lafayette, Colo., who has pushed for bigger setbacks between homes and oil and gas wells.

Twitter: @mikeleefw Email: mlee@eenews.net


Anadarko gas well targeted in Firestone house explosion investigation


by Peggy Tibbets

Ever wonder what could possibly go wrong with residential drilling? Now we’re finding out.

Today Anadarko Petroleum Corp., the state’s largest oil & gas producer, released a statement announcing plans to shut down all their vertical wells in northeastern Colorado, “in an abundance of caution” following a home explosion in Firestone on April 17, in which the homeowner Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law Joey Irwin were killed, and Mark’s wife Erin was seriously injured. Firestone is located in Weld County, home to over 22,000 oil & gas wells. Click here to read the full story.

Turns out Anadarko operates a vertical well about 200 feet from the Martinez’s home.


Microbreweries For the Environment

East Boulder County United

Boulder County Protectors







We are full steam ahead with our mission to protect Boulder County from fracking!


Join us for 

Microbreweries For the Environment

​Colorado Community Rights Network (COCRN) has been chosen as a beneficiary of this event!

Proceeds will go directly to support COCRN!

Date: This Friday, April 28, 2017

​Time: 7:00 – 12:00

​Place: Boulder Theater 

Cost: $20 ($15 + $5 charge) with this code: CCRN2013

Get tickets HERE

Featuring The Brothers Comatose, with special guests The Drunken Hearts and Chain Station

All you can responsibly drink + unlimited sampling with a reusable, pint glass with this years artwork included with your ticket


Emergency Meetings – Protecting Our Rights and Climate from Fracking


Meetings in Lafayette and Boulder


The moratorium against fracking ends on May 1, 2017

216 wells are already planned for East Boulder County around Highway 287 and 52


Fracking is imminent in Boulder County. Permits have arrived and more will be arriving on May 1

Every one of us must get involved to protect our land and demand a ban on fracking.

​Invite everyone you know and attend one of these important meetings. 



Date: Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Location: Unity Church, 2855 Folsom St., Boulder, CO 80026




Date: Thursday, May 11, 2017

Time: 6:00 – 8:00 pm

Location: East Simpson Coffee Shop, 414 East Simpson St., Lafayette, CO 80026


You’ll learn:

– Our approach to banning fracking through community rights 

– How to advocate for the Climate Bill of Rights we aim to pass in Boulder County

– How and why to get involved with Direct Action to protect our climate

– Why we the people have a right to healthy climate

– Basic health impact of fracking on our health and communities 

​- How you can plug in to protect a healthy climate and demand a ban on fracking in Boulder County 



Democracy School

Instead of questioning why corporations can legally treat Colorado communities like sacrifice zones, we accept their authority to do so and then beg elected officials to make the drilling a little less harmful.  How did we get to this state and what can we do about it? 

Confronting the Corporate Takeover of Communities: A New Organizing Model

With Ben Price and Chad Nicholson, Senior Organizers, Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund (CELDF)

Sponsored by: Colorado Community Rights Network

Date:  Friday, May 19 and Saturday, May 20, 2017

Time: 6 pm – 9 pm Friday evening and 8:45 am – 5 pm Saturday

Location: The Unity Church, 2855 Folsom St., Boulder, CO 80304

Tuition: $150  (for the two-day session and all reading material)


Space is limited to 35 people: SIGN UP AND PAY HERE NOW

Note: We can accommodate up to 5 people on a reduced-rate scholarship. To apply for a scholarship, send an email explaining why you need the scholarship to bouldercountyprotectors@gmail.com and we will be in touch with you.

To bring: A brownbag lunch on Saturday. We will have a short break and there are no restaurants close by.

Deadline for signup: Wednesday, May 17 at 5pm


What is Democracy School?

The Daniel Pennock Democracy School is an illuminating course that teaches citizens and activists how to reframe discouraging single-issue work (fracking, cyanide use in mining, factory farming, livable wage, affordable housing, worker rights, policing) in a way that confronts corporate control on a powerful single front: people’s constitutional rights.

Democracy School offers a new organizing model that helps citizens confront the usurpation by corporations of the rights of communities, people, and earth. Lectures cover the history of people’s movements and corporate power, and the dramatic organizing over the last decade in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire, Ohio, Colorado, Washington, and Oregon by communities confronting agribusiness, the oil and gas industry, corporate hegemony over worker rights, and others.

Included with enrollment in the Democracy School is a 300 plus-page notebook of background reading material.

In Boulder County and many other counties in Colorado, we are facing impending oil and gas drilling as our moratoriums end. Join us for Democracy School as we learn more about how to continue the fight for local control over fracking and other issues in our communities.

Learn more about Democracy School in this short video from the Community Environmental Legal Defense Fund:   https://youtu.be/i1s_rE1VR64

Questions?  Contact Kristin McLean at bouldercountyprotectors@gmail.com


Why should you attend a Democracy School?

•    You want to understand how corporations have taken control of our government.

•    You want to learn how certain social movements won against corporate power.

•    You believe that we have to understand our true history in order to bring decision-making power back to the people and to our communities.

•    You studied American history in high school and/or college, but think you might have been snookered about the stories of our past.

•    You suspect that we don’t really live in a democracy.

•    You care about slowing climate change, stopping pollution, ensuring social justice, getting basic rights for workers, etc.

•    You would like to help get a local community bill of rights enacted in your town, city, or county.


“If you take no other training this year, do the Democracy School. It is a superlative unfolding revelation of how corporations have hijacked democracy. It meticulously deconstructs the historical arc that brought us to this precipice. But most importantly, it then departs into the highly pragmatic and inspiring work now underway that is slowly turning the tide . . . This Second American Revolution may be the most important political work going on anywhere in the country or the world.

-Kenny Ausubel ‘05, Founder and Co-Executive Director, Bioneers



If you have not already done so, here are two things to do today to support us:

1. Forward this email to two friends.

2. Like us on Facebook.

Let’s do this. HOKA.

In love and solidarity,

The Boulder County Protectors of East Boulder County United


Buffalo Pipeline Leaks 19,000 Gallons of Crude Oil on Farmland in Oklahoma

The Buffalo Pipeline, owned by Houston-based Plains All American Pipeline, L.P., leaked approximately 450 barrels, or roughly 18,900 gallons, of crude oil onto farmland in Kingfisher County, Oklahoma last week.

Wheat farmer and cattle rancher Steve Pope told local TV station KFOR that he has lost an estimated 120 acres of pasture and wheat crop from the spill.


Amendment 71

Monday in Denver: Ralph Ogden to challenge Amendment 71 as unconstitutional
Dear Ivan,
You’re invited to strike a win for the people Monday at a press conference sponsored by the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care.
Amendment 71 made it more difficult to pass an Amendment in Colorado–unless you are wealthy.  Attorneys Ralph Ogden and Timms Fowler know that’s not the way democracy works, so they will file a challenge to the constitutionality of A71 at 10 a.m. Monday, April 24
*Show up at the press conference at 9:30 Monday at the Greek Amphitheater at Denver’s Civic Center Park.* 
Amendment 71, passed in 2016 following a misleading campaign, requires citizens who want to pass a Colorado constitutional amendment to gather a difficult-to-obtain quota of signatures from each of 35 senate districts and also win 55% of the vote.
That’s so expensive as to be almost impossible for grassroots groups.
It’s also unconstitutional.
Speakers from the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health care and other supporters will defend Colorado’s direct democracy route, the citizens initiative, from the unconstitutional limits of Amendment 71. They’ll outline why the attorneys will challenge Amendment 71 in Federal court.
Ogden is a long-time proponent for universal health care who helped write Amendment 69.  He serves on the board of the Colorado Foundation for Universal Health Care.
In addition to arguing over 200 appeals in state and federal courts before his semi-retirement in 2012, Ogden successfully represented Becky Brinkman and Margaret Burd in Brinkman v. Long, the Adams County, Colorado, same-gender marriage case which resulted in a judicial declaration that Colorado’s ban on same gender marriages violated the Fourteenth Amendment.

Mountaintop Removal Site Could Become Kentucky’s Largest Solar Farm

Kentucky, like most of the Appalachian region, has been in economic distress since the bust of the coal mining industry. But, new hope for jobs and the ravaged environment may come in the form of the state’s largest solar farm.

The company spearheading the initiative, Berkeley Energy Group, used to be a coal mining company and still owns thousands of acres of land in the area, including the abandoned mountaintop removal site in Pike County, Kentucky, just outside of Pikeville in the heart of coal country. Berkeley Energy is working with EDF Renewable Energy and former Democratic state Auditor Adam Edelen to build a 50-100 megawatt farm right on top of the old mine. The project was announced on Tuesday.