It recently came to light that Department of Environmental Protection investigators were blocked by Chevron employees in the days after a natural gas well explosion in Greene County. The explosion, which killed one Chevron employee, set off a fire which blazed for five days in February.
StateImpact reporter Katie Colaneri recently broke the story and said Chevron would not allow the DEP to park or drive onto access roads toward the well for nearly two days. Colaneri says the rules are pretty straightforward concerning incidents such as the well explosion.
The DEP has authority over companies like Chevron during environmentally dangerous conditions, but Colaneri says the overall situation is still very unclear.
“The DEP voiced its opinion strongly, tried to work with Chevron to say, ‘this is not right, we’re allowed to be on this site.’ But it’s still not clear at this point why they actually listened to Chevron at that moment and didn’t just say, ‘well, we’re the DEP, we have a right to be here...’ It didn’t come to fisticuffs certainly," said Colaneri "Really what we have is this story about a verbal communication and the DEP shot back and said, ‘well, this isn’t right’ but didn’t for some reason assert their authority to the point where they were actually able to do what they wanted to do and be on the site.”
Colaneri said no one actually knows what happened unless they were on the ground at the time, but knows that the DEP is more interested in getting to the bottom of the more serious violations than focusing on the days of blocked access. Violations against Chevron include the venting of methane gas, the production of fluids that flew into the air and polluted the ground following the explosion and the failed equipment that cost a young contractor his life.