Marcellus / Shale Daily / Northeast

OSHA Will Not Fine Chevron for PA Well Fire

The U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will issue no citations to Chevron Appalachia LLC for an explosion and fire that burned for days at a three-well pad operated by the company in southwest Pennsylvania in February.

In a short statement, OSHA said it had finished an "in-depth" six-month investigation this month and concluded that the "exact cause of the incident could not be determined." OSHA personnel, along with federal and state regulators, emergency responders and well control specialists, were dispatched to the Lanco well pad on Feb. 11 after an explosion set fire to two wells that burned for days until they were capped on Feb. 25 (see Shale Daily, Feb. 11; Feb. 14).

The blast left one worker hospitalized and Cameron International's Ian McKee, 27, of Morganstown, WV, dead in what state regulators called one of the worst oil- and gas-related accidents in modern history (see Shale Daily, Feb. 18). OSHA's statement came just days after the Pennsylvania Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) concluded in its own six-month investigation that a failed gland nut and lockscrew assembly, used to secure wellhead equipment, had been ejected, causing natural gas to leak from the wellhead (see Shale Daily, Aug. 7). The DEP also said, however, that it could not determine the ignition source.

OSHA said it had involved McKee's family in the investigation and had provided an explanation of its findings. McKee's parents filed a wrongful death lawsuit against Chevron in Allegheny County court in Pittsburgh in June, hiring personal injury attorney John P. Gismondi to pursue a case against the company (see Shale Daily, July 3).

At the time, Gismondi told NGI's Shale Daily that the lawsuit would serve as a sort of fact-finding mission to compel Chevron to release more information about the incident. The company has expressed remorse about the incident and said it could not comment on pending litigation.

In April, the DEP sent Chevron a list of nine violations, chief among them was the allegation that the company refused unrestricted access to properly identified DEP personnel during response to the fire (see Shale Daily, April 11). Although the agency said Chevron's own response was adequate, it said the company's communication with regulators was inadequate. Chevron could face fines for each of the violations issued.

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