Washington, DC, November 8, 2010 –U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso, Ph.D. today met with Colorado Governor Bill Ritter, Jr. to discuss CSB safety recommendations regarding power plants in the state.
The recommendations grew out of the CSB’s investigation of the Xcel Energy hydroelectric plant tunnel accident in Georgetown, Colorado, that killed five contract workers on October 2, 2007. Workers were trapped underground during an operation to coat the inside of the tunnel, or penstock, using flammable solvents.
On August 25, 2010, the CSB issued a recommendation to the Governor’s Office to implement an accredited firefighter certification program for technical rescue that encompasses appropriate specialty areas, including confined spaces, as part of the Xcel Energy investigation. Dr. Moure-Eraso thanked Governor Ritter for his support of this recommendation. Governor Ritter and Chairperson Moure-Eraso further discussed a second recommendation to the state to implement contracting rules and practices for regulated utilities that would disqualify contractors with poor safety records. In its final report, the CSB found that Xcel contracted a company with the worst safety record of all bidders.
Finally, Chairperson Moure-Eraso and Governor Ritter discussed the CSB’s recommendation to ban “gas blows,” which release flammable gas to the atmosphere during fuel gas piping cleaning activities. The state of Colorado is due to convert a number of coal plants to gas fired power plants creating potential risks if natural gas is used to clean piping. This recommendation was made to all fifty states following the explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Connecticut, on February 7, 2010, that fatally injured six workers.
The CSB is an independent federal agency charged with investigating serious chemical accidents. The agency's board members are appointed by the president and confirmed by the Senate. CSB investigations look into all aspects of chemical accidents, including physical causes such as equipment failure as well as inadequacies in regulations, industry standards, and safety management systems.
The Board does not issue citations or fines but does make safety recommendations to plants, industry organizations, labor groups, and regulatory agencies such as OSHA and EPA. Visit our website, www.csb.gov.
For more information, contact Acting Director of Public Affairs Hillary Cohen, 202-261-3601, 202-446-8094 cell.