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Connecticut House Votes to Ban Cleaning Pipes with Gas

Responding to a natural gas explosion that caused six deaths and multiple injuries last year at an electric power plant in Middletown, CT, the state's House of Representatives on Thursday unanimously approved a bill that would ban the use of "flammable gas to clean or blow the gas piping" of electric generating facilities.

Violators would be fined up to $100,000 and face prison terms of up to two years for each offense.

The bill (HB 5802) also would require companies applying to the Connecticut Siting Council to build electric generating facilities to provide a special inspector to help municipal fire marshals inspect the facilities, and to pay a fee that would be used to train local fire marshals "on the complex issues of electric generating facility construction."

The bill awaits action by the state Senate. The Connecticut General Assembly is scheduled to adjourn June 8.

The explosion occurred Feb. 7, 2010 at the 620 MW Kleen Energy combined-cycle baseload plant in central Connecticut (see Daily GPI, Feb. 10; Feb. 9). The accident occurred during the planned cleaning of natural gas piping during the commissioning and startup phase of construction. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) eventually levied a fine of $16.6 million against the companies that were involved in the explosion (see Daily GPI, Aug. 6, 2010).

The legislation approved by the House incorporates measures recommended by the Thomas Commission, which was formed following the Kleen Energy accident, according to Rep. Christine Carpino (R-Middletown), who co-sponsored the bill.

"With a prohibition on blowing the gas lines to clear them, greater levels of inspection and increased transparency and public input in the process of locating these plants, we can help make certain a tragedy like the one last year at the Kleen Energy Plant isn't repeated," Carpino said.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) last year approved a list of "urgent recommendations" for OSHA, the National Fire Protection Association and others, including "the use of inherently safer alternatives such as air blows or pigging with air in lieu of flammable gas" to clean pipes (see Daily GPI, June 30, 2010).

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