Representatives Rosa L. DeLauro (CT-3), Joe Courtney (CT-3), John Larson (CT-1) and Senator Christopher Dodd (D-CT) today commented on the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announcement citing three construction companies and 14 other site contractors for 371 alleged workplace safety violations leading to the February explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems power plant construction site in Middletown, CT. Additionally, OSHA proposed more than $16 million dollars in penalties for the violations, which would be the third-largest fine in OSHA history. Six workers perished in this terrible explosion and 50 other workers were injured.
"To do right by the men who perished and were injured in this accident, it is imperative that we understand the causes of this tragedy and take actions to make sure they are not repeated," said DeLauro. "Today's OSHA announcement is a critical step in making sure employers and contractors live up to their responsibility to maintain a safe workplace, and I commend OSHA for taking major regulatory enforcement action. However, I believe that to truly prevent this tragedy in the future it is imperative that OSHA go beyond its warning letter to the industry and instead, move swiftly to develop standards that prohibit the use of natural gas for pipe cleaning."
"The staggering fine leveled against Kleen Energy underscores not only the tragic loss of life, but the incredible negligence that preceded it," said Courtney. "Having met with victims' families and chaired hearings on what transpired that day, I am confident OSHA got it right. The message they sent is that workplace safety is paramount. From here, however, we must build on that message and continue the effort to establish a safety standard that will ensure that a similar tragedy does not happen again."
Congressman John B. Larson (CT-01) said, "today's announcement is an important step in making sure that we keep hard working Americans in Connecticut and across the country out of harm's way and hold companies accountable for keeping their employees safe on the job. I continue to stand with the families who lost loved ones in this horrible accident and look forward to working further with local and national authorities to prevent an incident like this from happening again."
"The explosion at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middleton was a tragedy that should have been prevented with the proper safety procedures and regulations," said Dodd. "Today's announcement by OSHA is a step in the right direction and will hopefully prevent future workplace tragedies from occurring. No fine is big enough to make up for the lives lost and the impact this accident has had on the victims' families and the community as a whole. Every American worker deserves a safe work environment and that is why I firmly believe that we can and must strengthen our workplace safety laws."
Legislation funding the U.S. Department of Labor, passed by a House Appropriations Subcommittee on July 15, includes language and resources for OSHA to develop a standard for the safe handling of natural gas. The use of natural gas far exceeds the use of other flammable gases in the U.S., including hydrogen and acetylene.
The U.S. Chemical Safety Board (CSB), an independent, non-regulatory federal agency that investigated the accident, recommends that OSHA immediately issue interim regulations to prohibit the use of natural gas for pipe cleaning -- the cause of the explosion at Kleen Energy; the venting or purging of fuel gas indoors, and any work activity where the flammable gas concentration exceeds a fixed, low percentage of the lower explosive limit.
On February 7, 2010, Kleen Energy, a combined-cycle natural gas-fueled power plant under construction in Middletown, Connecticut, experienced a catastrophic natural gas explosion that killed 6 people and injured another 50 people. Approximately 125 new gas-fired power plants are planned for completion in the United States between 2010 and 2015.