Report: ‘No agency had oversight’ of Kleen Energy explosion

A state panel released a report today outlining a lack of regulatory oversight and other factors that went wrong surrounding the explosion at Kleen Energy Systems construction site in Middletown.

The explosion, that killed six workers in February, was blamed in the report on a procedure known as “gas blowing” that removes debris from a gas pipeline.

“No agency had oversight with regard to ‘cleaning’ or ‘blowing’ the natural gas pipeline, a process that is a necessary step in the construction of any natural gas-fueled power plant,” reads the executive summary written by Alan H. Nevas, a retired federal judge and chair of the Kleen Energy Plant Review Panel.

The panel — appointed by Republican Gov. M. Jodi Rell in the wake of the explosion — had officials from the departments of Public and Utility Control, Environmental Protection, Labor, Consumer Protection and the State Police, State Fire Marshall and Building Inspector.

A second state commission – named the Thomas Commission – will determine what statutory and regulatory changes are needed.

Changes in the law likely will have to wait until General Assembly’s next regular session begins in January, but the Kleen Energy’s current permit expires Nov. 30. The report “strongly urge[s]” that any renewal of the permit be conditioned on adherence to the findings of Nevas’s panel and the Thomas Commission.

Nevas said he is confident the needed regulations will be adopted.

“Unfortunately, it took a tragedy such as that what occurred in Middletown. … I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say other states will look to us,” he said.

The U.S. Chemical Safety Board says the “gas blowing” procedure is a common practice nationwide according to a recent survey they conducted. They have also criticized the procedure as “an open invitation to disaster.”

The Hazard Investigation Board with the CSB announced today they have scheduled a June 28 forum at the Saint Clements Castle banquet and conference facility in Portland, right across the Connecticut River from the Kleen Energy explosion site.

“The point is to consider urgent national and state recommendations,” said Daniel Horowitz, spokesman of CSB.

There is also an ongoing criminal investigation.