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Xcel Releases Self-Incriminating Report on Fatal Hydroelectric Plant Fire

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fireOn Oct 2, 2007, a fire occurred at Xcel’s Cabin Creek Hydroelectric Plant, near Georgetown, Colorado killing five workers. Gary Foster, Don DeJaynes, Dupree Holt, Anthony Aguirre and James St. Peters, along with four others were working in a drained water tunnel (a penstock) connected to the plant, cleaning a sprayer.

To do so, they used a flammable solvent which, according to investigators ignited, causing the blaze. Vapor from the solvent ignited, causing the fire. Foster, DeJaynes, Holt, Aguirre, and St. Peters were working deeper down the pipe than the others and lost their lives in the conflagration, according to OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration).

Fast forward to 2010. Criminal charges against Xcel over the five deaths are still pending; however, a recently leaked report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board accuses Xcel Energy of neglecting worker safety. Now for the really interesting part — it was Xcel that leaked it. Kyle Clark of 9News shares some details with us:

The energy company provided draft versions of the Chemical Safety Board [CSB] report, first to the Denver Post and then to 9Wants to Know investigator Kyle Clark.

The report, which is due to be released at a CSB press conference on August 25, faults Xcel and a contractor for a string of workplace safety violations at the Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant leading up to the October 2007 fire that killed five contract workers.

The decision by Xcel to provide copies of the report is interesting in light of the fact Xcel unsuccessfully tried to get a federal judge to delay the release of the government agency’s report until after a pending criminal case against the company goes to trial.

But it seems that the released document may be an older version of the report, according to the Associated Press via CBS 4 Denver:

Chemical safety board spokesman Daniel Horowitz said Xcel had been instructed to keep the draft confidential. It doesn’t include key sections, such as an analysis of regulations and proposed safety recommendations, he said.

The article also states that the draft was released out of fear on Xcel’s part that the CSB had plans to release the final version closer to the Xcel / RPI criminal trial, thus influencing the jurors.

Accident cases like this can become very complex, involving issues of workplace safety, wrongful death and violations of OSHA. We’ll keep an eye on how this case transpires.

Image by Stacirl, used under its Creative Commons license.


4 Responses to “Xcel Releases Self-Incriminating Report on Fatal Hydroelectric Plant Fire”

  • Sandra Stanford says:

    I Have worked for Xcel now for 11 years and I just stumbled on this article tonight. 2 years ago we started having daily safety stand downs.. Now I know why. As many near misses and accident reports we have to go thru, this incident has NEVER came up. I’m in a different department but still work for Xcel. The company’s whole attiitude has changed in the last 2 years.. Before it was all about getting the job done, no matter what, now safety comes first. Is sad when people have to die before they realize what’s more important.

  • […] Xcel Energy and a subsidiary, Public Service Company of Colorado, are being charged in federal court with five […]

  • […] who rested their case last week, say the company knew of workplace violations. The defense says the violations were due to a contractor who didn’t heed regulations, and […]

  • Vic Feuerstein says:

    Many years ago I was an OSHA compliance officer in Colorado. As such I investigated then Public Service Company. It appears that things have not changed much in the past 20 years with regard to how safety and health are addressed.


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