CSB Chairperson Moure-Eraso Encourages Adoption of Legislation to Permanently Ban Gas Blows in Connecticut

February 15, 2011
CSB Chairperson Moure-Eraso Encourages Adoption of Legislation to
 Permanently Ban Gas Blows in Connecticut

       Washington, DC, February 15, 2011–  U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairperson Rafael Moure-Eraso today testified in support of action by the Connecticut General Assembly towards enacting a permanent statewide ban on gas blows. The proposed legislation discussed at a hearing held by the House Joint Committee on Public Safety and Security follows a February 7, 2010, natural gas explosion at Kleen Energy which fatally injured six workers and injured at least 50 others.

       The CSB’s investigation found that on the day of the accident contract workers were conducting a gas blow – the practice of cleaning fuel gas piping by forcing large amounts of flammable gas through the pipes. Natural gas was forced out of vents located near ground level, adjacent to the power generation building. Just before 11:30 am, the accumulated gas ignited, triggering a massive explosion.             

       In written testimony, Chairperson Moure-Eraso said, “The CSB is pleased that the State of Connecticut is moving forward with legislation that will set an example for the rest of the country. As is the case with so many industrial accidents, the disaster at Kleen Energy was entirely preventable. The CSB’s final report concluded that using gas blows to clean piping is inherently unsafe, and should no longer be permitted in the construction of power plants.”    

       As a result of the Kleen Energy accident and a deadly explosion at the ConAgra food plant in Raleigh, North Carolina, the CSB issued a total of 18 urgent safety recommendations at a public meeting in Middletown, Connecticut, on June 28, 2010. This included a recommendation that the governor and legislature of Connecticut enact a law prohibiting the use of flammable gas to clean fuel gas piping during power plant construction.  Recommendations were also made to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) calling for federal regulations that would prohibit the release of flammable gas to the atmosphere for the purpose of cleaning fuel gas piping. The Board also issued
similar recommendations to two major voluntary standards organizations - the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) and the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) - to amend their respective codes and standards to require the use of inherently safer methods during the cleaning of fuel gas piping.  

      Chairman Moure-Eraso said, “Banning the use of natural gas blows should be adopted by other states, the federal government and voluntary standards setting organizations, urgently. Lives can be saved.”
During its investigation, the CSB found that 125 or more natural gas fueled power plants are anticipated to come online over the next five years.. In many of these instances, new or refitted plants may opt to use gas blows despite the inherent dangers, simply because gas is conveniently available. Therefore, ending the practice of natural gas blows has the potential to prevent future tragedies such as that which occurred at Kleen Energy.     

       Last week the CSB released a new 15 minute safety video that includes a 3-D animation of the events leading up to the accident at Kleen Energy. Entitled
“Deadly Practices,” the video shows the hazards of releasing gas into areas where it can accumulate, ignite, and kill or injure workers or members of the public. The video is available online at www.CSB.gov and on the CSB’s YouTube channel. 

       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, please contact Hillary Cohen at 202.261.3601 or 202.446.8094 (cell) or Sandy Gilmour at 202.261.7614 or 202.251.5496 (cell).  

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