Oil Drilling Can Endanger Texas Residents – Like Colorado

Oil drilling happens around explosive gas near homes in Texas and that’s a problem. Housing and oil booms collide and endanger Texas residents.

Oil drilling happens around explosive gas near homes in Texas. That’s a problem.

Texas lacks adequate setback laws to protect homes from nearby wells, endangering many thousands of people. A leaking gas line in Colorado, another oil state like Texas, blew up a house, killing two family members and severely injuring a third.

“Our Whole House Shook, and Like Jumped”

PBS Newshour reported that in April an explosion rocked the Denver suburb of Firestone, destroying a home and killing its owner, Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law, Joey Irwin. Martinez’s wife Erin was hospitalized with serious injuries. Resident’s in the neighborhood fled for safety.

“I don’t have the vocabulary to describe it,” said neighbor Gayle Mertz, “It was just a massive, massive explosion.” …As the home began burning, parents, including Laura Goodwin, grabbed up their children and evacuated.

An underground pipeline from a well 178 feet away had seeped odorless gas into the home’s basement. Natural gas right out of the ground has no odor. The familiar smell you sense from your stove is added later in production as a public safety measure.

After the explosion, Andadarko Petroleum voluntarily shut down 3,000 wells, which Fire Chief Ted Poszywak attributed to a cut in an abandoned line nearby.

Housing and Oil Booms Collide

Public Media’s Dan Boyce reports that what led to the tragic explosion is common in other states like Texas:  an expanding housing industry and the oil sector have become uneasy neighbors.

Colorado law requires new wells have a minimum 500 foot setback from houses, but there is no regulation regarding new homes built near existing wells. Governor John Hickenlooper has ordered the inspection of all oil and gas lines within 1,000 feet of occupied structures.

Gaping Holes in Texas Law

Tiffany Lashmet, a legal expert with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service says that the Texas Railroad Commission, which regulates oil and gas, has no state law regulating residential setbacks from oil and gas wells. Instead, the state has left it to each municipality to establish its own local regulation, leading to inconsistent protections statewide.

The Texas Local Government Code forbids drilling in a dense section of a city or within 200 feet of a residence. Thus Texas lags other states in protecting its citizens from explosive well gases near residential neighborhoods.

In this short video, a gas explosion obliterates a New Jersey home in the blink of an eye, injuring several gas company employees sent to find a leak.


Dangerous Neighbor

Oilfield work is inherently dangerous for the workers in the field. It shouldn’t be dangerous for families living peaceably nearby. The Railroad Commission needs to better protect housing developments from oilfield sites. Oilfield companies must keep oil and gas lines inspected and safe to protect their own workers and innocents nearby.

If you or a loved one has been injured in an oil field explosion or oilfield fire, contact our law firm to explore your legal rights for justice. Your consultation is free and we only get paid if you receive a settlement or a jury award.

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