CSB Commends Connecticut for Prohibiting Natural Gas Blows, Urges Other States to Follow Suit

On Oct. 19, U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB) Chairman Rafael Moure-Eraso called for a ban on the practice of cleaning out debris from gas piping using pressurized natural gas. In a newly released video safety message, Moure-Eraso called the practice, known in the industry as a gas blow, to be “inherently unsafe activity.”

CSB’s safety message follows an investigation into the Feb. 7 explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown, Conn., that killed six workers.

In June, CSB issued 18 urgent recommendations, including one to OSHA calling for federal regulations that would prohibit the release of flammable gas to the atmosphere for the purpose of cleaning fuel gas piping. CSB 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.

Three months later, Connecticut Governor M. Jodi Rell issued an executive order banning the use of natural gas blows during power plant construction in the state. In the video safety message, Moure-Eraso commends Governor Rell for this action, saying, “The governor’s decisive action banning the use of natural gas blows should be followed by other states and the federal government, urgently. Lives can be saved.”

In addition to this safety message commending Connecticut, CSB is issuing letters to the other 49 states warning of the hazards associated with gas blows and urging state officials to enact any necessary changes to their respective state regulations and codes to prohibit gas blows at power plants and other similar facilities. CSB currently is in production of a full-length safety video on the hazards of fuel gas blows and purging gas piping indoors; the release is expected by the end of the year.

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