AND RELATED REPORTS:
OTHER SOURCES OF EMERGENCY POWER SUPPLY TAXED: http://www.theday.com/local/20150921/propane-tax-could-affect-thousands-of-previously-exempt-homes-and-businesses-
NUCLEAR POWER ANOTHER ISSUE: http://www.theday.com/local/20150908/nrc-cancels-study-of-cancer-risk-in-communities-near-nuclear-power-plants
Connecticut braces for major winter storm
Jan 26, 11:41 AM EST
The storm is shaping up as a test for the state's largest utility, Connecticut Light & Power, (now EVERSOURCE) which has been heavily criticized by state officials and consumers for delays in restoring power following outages in recent years. CL&P is emailing and phoning customers warning of possible outages during the storm, which has the potential to bring down power lines. The utility has upgraded equipment and cleared tree branches and limbs since destructive storms in 2011. CL&P, a subsidiary of Northeast Utilities, serves 1.2 million customers in 149 municipalities and towns.
Utilities are predicting outages will likely affect more than 100,000 customers, and for those who do lose power, it could be several days before it's restored. Many residents are preparing for the worst. Frank Kurzatkowski, a salesman from Southington, said he has gas cans for his snow blowers and three, five-gallon buckets of water at his home in case the power goes out and his well pump doesn't work. After the storm ends, he plans to help unbury his neighborhood.
NEWS ALERT: State activates
emergency center; Sandy’s force to be felt Sunday
By The Forum Staff on October 26, 2012
The projected path of Hurricane Sandy moved northeast, toward Connecticut, according to the latest potential track issued Friday evening by the National Hurricane Center. For the past few days, forecasters had continued to move the track to the southwest of the Nutmeg State...The state has launched a website dedicated to keeping state residents up-to-date on all pertinent information on Hurricane Sandy, which can be accessed at ct.gov/sandy...
TOP STORIES DURING FIRST FULL WEEK OF NO POWER:
State school board looks at decades-old
Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, CT MIRROR
November 7, 2011
Some 340 children attend Verplanck Elementary School in Manchester, but the town Board of Education this school year found itself facing difficult decisions because Verplanck was just two students out of compliance with the state's racial imbalance law.
"It doesn't seem like such a problem. Am I not understanding something?" State Board of Education Member Ellen Camhi said reacting to a presentation at a recent meeting on Manchester's inability to resolve years of non-compliance with the law.
Each year the State Department of Education informs several districts that they are violating the law by having schools with demographics far less diverse than their district. This year six districts were cited: Fairfield, Greenwich, Groton, Manchester, Enfield and Bristol. Just a handful of students put most of these districts out of compliance, and obliged them to come up with integration plans.
Please search the CT MIRROR archives for the remainder of this story.
We also read the NYTIMES online, keeping up with world events and the economy...
Brings In Former FEMA Director To Assess Utilities; Towns Still Unhappy
by Christine Stuart and Hugh McQuaid
Nov 4, 2011 7:39pm
In what could be viewed as a vote of no confidence in the state’s largest utility, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy announced Friday evening that the head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under former President Bill Clinton will be coming to assess the response of both Connecticut Light & Power and United Illuminating to the October Nor’Easter.
James Lee Witt, the CEO of Witt Associates and former FEMA director, reached out to Malloy through Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and agreed to do the assessment of the two utilities free of charge...
Please search CTNEWSJUNKIE archives for the remainder of this story.
November 2, 2011
Between Tropical Storm Irene and last weekend's winter storm that still has thousands without power, many school districts across the state have already used up all their scheduled snow days--and it's not even winter yet...
By LANDON THOMAS Jr.
November 1, 2011
By NIKI KITSANTONIS and November 1, 2011
ATHENS — The Greek government was plunged into chaos on Tuesday and faced an imminent collapse, as lawmakers rebelled against Prime Minister George Papandreou’s surprise call for a popular referendum on a new debt deal with ’s foreign lenders.
Such a collapse would not only render the referendum plan moot, it would likely scuttle — or at least delay — the debt deal that was agreed on in Brussels last week, putting Greece on a fast track to default and possible exit from the monetary union of countries sharing currency...full story here.
In The Aftermath Of Historic
Outdid Irene: Pre-Halloween storm caused the largest number of outages ever in Connecticut
Hartford Courant editorial
November 1, 2011
Tropical Storm Irene was, it seems, just a dress rehearsal
for the ferocious nor'easter that battered Connecticut this past
weekend. But the question remains open as to whether Connecticut has
learned the right lessons from the storm that buffeted the state barely
two months ago.
The wicked October snowstorm eclipsed August's summery blast, causing 884,000 customers to lose power — the largest number of outages ever in Connecticut — compared with 767,000 homes and businesses without electricity during Irene's peak. The October storm knocked down five times as many trees as Irene, the state says. And it did critical damage to 44 transmission lines...
Please search the Hartford Courant archives for the remainder of this story.
Lawyers representing Middletown power plant blast victims want site preserved
Article published Mar 1, 2010
Two lawyers representing three men who were injured and the family of one who was killed in the Middletown power plant explosion last month are filing court documents seeking to preserve that they call evidence on the property.
Robert I. Reardon Jr. and Reese Norris are filing a "bill of discovery" today in Middletown Superior Court, seeking a court order that the Middletown site and evidence on it be preserved to allow their experts to investigate further.
Police investigators last week released the site of the Feb. 7 explosion back to the owners, O&G Industries and Kleen Energy Systems. The order the two lawyers are seeking would bar O&G and Kleen Energy from doing any clean up from the blast or continue construction of the energy plant, which was near completion when it blew up.
Five workers were killed in the explosion and several dozen were injured.
Reardon represents Joseph Scovish of Oakdale, Kenneth Meloney of Oakdale, and Dennis Riley of Manchester. He said all three received head, neck and back injuries in the blast.
Norris represents the wife of Peter Chepulis, who was killed.
The lawyers are also including the city of Middletown in the request, saying that investigators seized evidence after the blast.
KLEEN ENERGY: Agency Urges Moratorium On Power-Plant Gas Line Purges
By DAVE ALTIMARI, The Hartford Courant
February 26, 2010
Click here to find out more!
Federal authorities investigating the Kleen Energy plant explosion are calling on similar plants or any industry that conducts high-pressure natural gas purges to stop them until safer regulations can be put in place.
Donald Holmstrom, the lead investigator for the Chemical Safety Review Board, said at a press conference Thursday that there is an absence of regulations guiding companies on how to safely do these dangerous gas "blows."
Holmstrom said that the board expects to make recommendations to improve the purging procedure and that Congress will hold hearings and hopefully approve legislation to put new regulations for purging in place.
"There are no national requirements to use safe practices in what is becoming a much more common occurrence all across the country," Holmstrom said. "We strongly caution natural gas power plants and other industries against the venting of high-pressure natural gas in or near work sites. This practice, although common, is inherently unsafe."
The Kleen Energy blast on Feb. 7, which killed six and injured 26, occurred during the purging, or cleaning, of a natural-gas pipeline leading to the turbines in the main power block building. The gas was purged from the auxiliary boiler on the southeastern side of the power block building through a pipe that ran along the back wall of the building.
The gas was vented out of temporary pipes less than 20 feet off the ground all along the back of the building, Holmstrom said. One of those venting pipes was in the tunnel-like area between the two giant towers, known as heat recovery steam generators, behind the main building.
Holmstrom said that close to 400,000 cubic feet of natural gas, or enough gas to fill a basketball arena, was purged into the mostly enclosed area in the 10 minutes before the explosion occurred.
Holmstrom said that dumping the gas into such a congested area slowed the dispersal rate and allowed the gas to build up to a point that it reached the lowest explosive limit of at least 4 percent natural gas and the rest air.
Investigators are still trying to determine what caused the explosion, but Holmstrom said that's not a big focus of his agency right now. The gas could have been ignited by one of several ignition sources because welding and grinding were going on during the purge, a diesel fuel heater was near the back wall of the building near where the explosion occurred, and welders' work tables in the courtyard area might have been charged.
Also, radio transmissions or even static electricity could have sparked the blast, sources said.
"Ignition sources are hard to determine and this case is no different — there were numerous potential ignition sources in and around that building," Holmstrom said. "We're focusing on preventing something like this happening again and in developing safe practices for the people who work in these plants."
Holmstrom said one area that his investigators are reviewing is eliminating the use of natural gas during the purges and instead possibly replacing it with air, steam, nitrogen or even water. He said that there also is a possibility of using combustion devices, similar to flares, that can safely burn up the flammable gas or vapor.
Investigators believe that the six men killed were working in the southwestern corner of the power block building, the closest part of the building to where the blast occurred in the courtyard area.
A multi-agency group of local, state and federal agencies has been working on the investigation. Investigators from the Chemical Safety Review Board were originally not allowed into the Kleen Energy site because they were not considered members of a law enforcement agency.
After several days of backroom dealing between state and federal officials and congressional representatives, the team of 10 safety board investigators was allowed on the site. The investigators have been conducting their own interviews with witnesses, reviewing documents and examining the blast site.
Holmstrom said they are still trying to work out an agreement with state and local officials about the handling of evidence. Investigators obtained a search warrant earlier this week allowing them to remove as many as 75 pieces of evidence from the site.
The Chemical Safety Review Board is a federal agency that was formed to investigate industrial accidents such as the Kleen Energy explosion. The board has no criminal authority. Its recommendations carry significant impact in changing fire and building codes.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant
Middletown Power Plant Explosion: Massive Amount Of Gas Released Before Blast
Dave Altimari, The Hartford Courant
11:18 AM EST, February 25, 2010
Close to 400,000 cubic feet of gas was released into the atmosphere behind the Kleen Energy building in the final 10 minutes before the explosion that killed six and injured 27, the lead investigator of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board said today.
Donald Holmstrom, lead investigator of the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said that the gas was released into a congested area next to the power block building, and that the congested area likely slowed the dispersion of the gas and was ignited by an undetermined ignition source. The gas released was enough to fill a basketball arena, Holmstrom said.
"A major focus of the CSB investigation is to determine what regulations, codes, and good practices might apply to these gas blows, '' said Holmstrom.
He added, at a morning press conference in Middletown: "To this point, no specific codes have been identified, but we are continuing our research. In the meantime, we strongly caution national gas power plants and other industries against the venting of high pressure natural gas in or near work sites. This practice, although common, is inherently unsafe."
The blast on Feb. 7 occurred during the purging, or cleaning, of a natural-gas pipeline leading to the turbines in the power building. The purged gas was directed outside the building -- the preferred method, according to national safety experts. But a huge amount of the gas pooled in a bowl-like area behind the main power block building while crews were working inside.
The gas could have been ignited by one of several ignition sources because welding and grinding was going on during the purge, a diesel fuel heater was located near the back wall of the building near where the explosion occurred, and welders' work tables located in the courtyard area may have been charged.
In addition to the equipment, radio transmissions or even static electricity could have sparked the blast, sources said. Investigators believe the workers who were killed were working in the southwestern corner of the power block building, the closest part of the building to where the blast occurred right outside in a tunnel-like space called the courtyard, between two giant towers.
A multi-agency group of local, state and federal agencies has been working on the investigation. CSB investigators were originally not allowed into the Kleen Energy site because they were not considered a law enforcement agency. After several days of backroom dealing between state and federal officials and Congressional representatives, the CSB investigators were allowed on the site. They have been conducting their own interviews with witnesses.
The CSB is a little-known federal agency that was formed to investigate industrial accidents such as the Kleen Energy explosion. While the board has no criminal authority, its recommendations carry significant impact in changing fire and building codes.
On Wednesday the National Fire Protection Association approved several of the board's recommendations stemming from its investigation into the ConAgra plant explosion in Garner, N.C., last June that killed three and injured dozens more. At the ConAgra plant, workers were purging air from a natural-gas pipe so that they could light a new water heater. The vented gas built up in a utility room and exploded.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant
6th victim dies from plant explosion injuries
The Associated Press
Article published Feb 19, 2010
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) _ A sixth person has died from injuries received in a Feb. 7 power plant explosion in Connecticut.
Middletown Police say that Kenneth Haskell of New Durham, N.H., died Friday afternoon at Hartford Hospital.
The police say the 37-year-old Haskell was a superintendent for Keystone Construction and Maintenance Services at the Kleen Energy Plant.
Mayor Sebastian Giuliano says "It's like that Sunday all over again." He says "It's just very sad."
The explosion at the nearly completed plant came as workers purged a natural gas line.
Twenty people were also injured.
Report: Warning issued just before Middletown blast
Article published Feb 18, 2010
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. (AP) — A worker monitoring natural gas levels at a Middletown power plant reportedly called for an evacuation moments before last week's explosion that killed five workers.
The Hartford Courant, citing witnesses and investigators it did not identify, said the message, radioed throughout the Kleen Energy plant, warned workers that gas meter readings had spiked.
Workers have told The Associted Press that they left after smelling gas, but made no mention of an evacuation order. Middletown South District Deputy Fire Chief Marc Fongemie said Thursday he did not know if such an order was issued.
The newspaper reported Wednesday that investigators have recovered the two gas meters used at the time of the explosion, which occurred while workers were purging gas lines at the plant, which was under construction.
Crews Continue To Burn Off Fuel At Middletown Explosion Site
12:34 PM EST, February 14, 2010
Environmental crews remained at the Kleen Energy power plant Sunday to burn off fuel from potentially dangerous containers.
Houston-based Clean Harbors spent Saturday performing the procedure, and will continue doing so during the day Sunday and possibly Monday, said South District Deputy Fire Chief Marc Fongemie.
Many gas cylinders were damaged in an explosion last Sunday, which killed 5 people and injured 27, said Fongemie. Because of the damage, the cylinders are not considered safe enough to transport, and their contents must be burned off on-site.
Fongemie said anyone seeing black smoke from the plant should not worry, and that the procedure is not considered dangerous to area residents.
MIDDLETOWN: Huge Buildup Of Gas Outdoors A Puzzle In Middletown Blast Investigation
By DAVE ALTIMARI, JOSH KOVNER and EDMUND H. MAHONY, The Hartford Courant
February 11, 2010
The five men killed in Sunday's blast at the Kleen Energy power plant in Middletown were on the crew assigned to prepare a natural gas pipe and turbine for purging inside the main power building.
They were responsible for monitoring the pipe during and after the purging operation, sources said. All other nonessential personnel left the building when the purging process was started.
At some point, several workers said, they smelled a strong odor of natural gas inside and outside the main power building.
A union worker said he was told by co-workers that one or more electricians working inside the building walked out because of the smell. By leaving, they may have saved their lives because the force of the blast, which occurred outdoors in what was known as the courtyard behind the main power building, literally blew the walls off the building.
The men left inside the building were killed by shrapnel and other flying debris and not the initial explosion, a law enforcement source said. Their bodies were found in front of the main building.
Peter Chepulis, Raymond Dobratz and Ronald Crabb were pipe fitters; Chris Walters was a safety manager for Keystone Construction, a subcontractor; and Roy Rushton was a supervisor involved with the installation of the gas turbines at the plant.
Twenty-seven people were injured in the explosion. Most were standing outside after they left the building while the purging took place or were in construction trailers waiting for the test to be completed. The blast threw some of them at least 40 feet in the air, but most of the dangerous debris was blown forward through the main building.
Investigators believe the explosion originated in the rectangular courtyard between the two giant retention towers, but the more perplexing question is how the gas accumulated outside the building at a level high enough to explode.
Investigators are looking at several possibilities for the source of the ignition, including a welder's torch and static electricity.
But two experts in gas pipeline testing, Bryan Baesel and John Puskar of Combustion Safety Inc. of Cleveland, said identifying the precise ignition source is less important than understanding how enough natural gas was able to accumulate outdoors to explode.
"There could have been 1,000 ignition sources. That much natural gas is going to find an ignition source at some point," Baesel said.
Puskar said that for an outside explosion to occur, there would have had to have been a tremendous amount of escaped gas.
He said a chemical known as mercaptan is added to natural gas to give it an odor so it can be detected. But new pipes tend to absorb mercaptan, he said, causing the odor to fade. If that were the case in Middletown, he said, there could have been a large gas build-up before workers smelled it.
He also said a phenomenon known as "odor fatigue," in which nasal passages become saturated with the smell of gas over time, can make it difficult for people to continue to detect the mercaptan.
Puskar said the purging crews typically use a detector, known as a lower-explosive-limit or "LEL meter," to monitor any gas release.
Police officers heading the criminal investigation at the Kleen Energy plant seized gas detectors, gas analyzers and security cameras earlier this week.
Investigators spent a snowy Wednesday interviewing workers who were on the site when the explosion occurred, according to Middletown Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano.
On-site investigation continued into late Tuesday night and could resume this morning, depending on conditions following the snowstorm, he said.
If weather conditions are appropriate today, officials plan to vent natural gas that remains in a pipeline leading to the plant from the Algonquin gas pipeline, which runs by the site. That venting will take place a distance from the building and is intended to make work at the site safe, Santostefano said.
Should the venting proceed, an announcement will be made this morning, Santostefano said. "At no time will there be danger from this," he said. "This is a very safe procedure."
Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said a search warrant covering the explosion scene has been extended until at least Friday. He said investigators were examining dozens of tanks at the site, many of them welding tanks, with the intention of removing them as evidence. He said that many of the tanks were damaged and that their contents would have to be neutralized before they can be transported by truck.
O&G Industries, the general contractor for the construction, issued its first public statement on the blast late Wednesday.
The company offered condolences to victims, pledged cooperation with the criminal investigation and indicated that it plans to resume construction in the future.
The statement said that while O&G was the general contractor and a minority shareholder in Kleen Energy, it did not handle most of the specialized work, including the piping. The statement didn't mention who was in charge of Sunday's purging operation.
"O&G subcontracted this work to qualified companies who specialize in these areas," the statement said. "Each of these major contractors was required to have and adhere to their safety plan, as well as having a safety officer on site during the performance of their work. Safety personnel from all major contractors and O&G regularly perform safety inspections on the site."
Plumbers and Pipefitters Local 777 released a statement Wednesday saying that the union has established a fund to accept donations for their three members — Crabb, Dobratz and Chepulis — who were killed in the explosion. The union said two members remain hospitalized with injuries. It also said it will not discuss the explosion further.
Those who worked on the plant and are now unemployed and can't get their equipment can call a special phone number — 860-566-5790 — to file unemployment claims.
•Courant staff writer David Owens contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant
Page last updated at 23:19 GMT, Sunday, 7 February 2010
Connecticut power plant gas explosion kills five people
The 620MW Kleen Energy plant was due to come online in the summer
A huge explosion has rocked a power plant in the US state of Connecticut, killing at least five people and injuring 12, the local mayor has said.
Middletown Mayor Sebastian Giuliano said it was caused by a gas explosion.
People living up to 50km (30 miles) away reported that their homes were shaken by the blast at the Kleen Energy plant, being built outside Middletown.
There are reports of people trapped under the remains of a plant building, and a rescue operation is under way.
Search experts and specialist dog teams were at the site combing through the wreckage, the mayor said.
Speaking at a news conference on Sunday evening, Mr Giuliano said that the identities of the dead had not yet been released as some of the victim's families had not yet been informed.
Mr Giuliano said the plant, which was only 95% complete and due to open fully in the summer, was undergoing a series of gas tests when the explosion occurred.
He said between 100 and 200 people worked on the massive site, and were employed by multiple contracting companies.
"How many people were here today - that's the number they can't really nail down. They were purging gas lines all night long, most people were evacuated from the building when they ran the tests," Mr Giuliano said.
The plant is located to the south of the town, on the Connecticut River.
Earlier, deputy fire marshall Al Santostefano said there were some 50 construction workers on the site at the time of the explosion.
At least 100 firefighters were sent to the scene and it had taken them an hour to contain the fire caused by the blast, he said.
Officials say there is no further danger to the public, and have not evacuated the area. The plant, however, remains cordoned off.
The nearby Middlesex Hospital told the Associated Press it had received 11 victims, while the hospital in the state capital, Hartford, has treated three others.
'Gas line test'
Mr Santostefano said a natural gas pipeline running near the plant had exploded at 1117 (1617 GMT) sending a shockwave that one local resident compared to an earthquake.
"We heard such a loud explosion and the dog was outside and I heard her bark. And then when we went outside we saw a very big explosion of bright orange flame between the two smoke stacks," Lynn Townsend told the Associated Press.
"It really shook the house and everybody was scared and the kids started to cry because they did not know if the house was going to catch fire."
Fighting through tears, plant worker Paul Venti said: "It's just horrible. All I know is I lost some union brothers. They are some close close personal friends. It's horrible. They were working. They were testing."
"I just heard there was a gas explosion and I'm getting all kinds of phone calls from union brothers. We got some people up there they got little kids that are at home and we lost them."
Click here to view Jan. 15, 2010 report to the CT Siting Council. And now there is the forensic analysis of how this disaster happened and why. And how to prevent it from being replicated.
Middletown Power Plant Explosion: Focus On Worker's Torch
By JOSH KOVNER and DAVE ALTIMARI, The Hartford Courant
1:10 PM EST, February 9, 2010
Investigators are focusing on a welder's torch as the possible cause of Sunday's deadly blast at the Kleen Energy Systems power plant, sources said.
The explosion that killed five and hospitalized 27 people occurred immediately after the purging, or cleaning, of the underground natural gas pipeline that runs about 800 to 1,000 feet through the plant.
Sources familiar with the probe and with the purging operation said that welding work wasn't entirely halted during or immediately after the purging Sunday morning. That operation can result in an accumulation of natural gas that must be vented from rooms and enclosures before ignition sources, such as a welder's torch, can be safely introduced, experts said.
Fran Walters, of Florissant, Mo., wife of Chris Walters, a safety manager who died in the blast, said a police officer told her, "The building was full of gas and before they could do anything, it was too late."
Several sources said a purge was conducted Saturday without incident. The plant was 96 percent complete and was being readied for a summer opening.
Sunday's blast blew a construction trailer 40 feet into the air and was heard and felt for miles. Several sources said there were also industrial space heaters inside the otherwise heatless building.
"Why have people inside the building when doing this test?" U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney said Monday. "You're just asking for trouble."
Courtney visited the blast scene Monday, just as state personnel were preparing to remove some of the bodies from the area. He said members of trade unions who had gathered at the site were allowed to escort their fallen brothers out of the ravaged power plant."They moved in while we were getting briefed. It was such a moving scene. It hurt literally just seeing it," Courtney said.
State and Middletown police have control of the site and have a warrant to search the area and seize evidence. Courtney said officials were treating the plant as a crime scene for the purpose of limiting access to the blast area as the search for the cause and origin of the blast proceeds.
"The big thing is to be able to tell the families what the hell happened out there," said one official.
Lawyers representing the Kleen Energy plant had told state regulators in a Jan. 15 letter that the official opening of the plant, or the "commercial operation date," was Nov. 30, 2010. But the letter, by lawyers from Pullman & Comley to the Connecticut Siting Council, went on to say that project officials were estimating that the plant would be open by this summer.
New London attorney Robert Reardon, who is representing one of the injured pipefitters, said subcontractors had been working seven days a week recently to meet a late spring, early summer deadline.
"They were under tremendous pressure to get the plant finished," Reardon said Monday. "There was a rush to finish, and they were told, 'We have to get this done.'"
A separate state inquiry will focus on worker safety and other labor, training, permitting and supervision issues at the site, Gov. M. Jodi Rell announced Monday.
Deputy Middletown Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said the main investigation, being conducted by multiple city, state, and federal agencies, including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives, will explore whether other ignition sources were present during and after the purging.
"It's going to try to determine whether all electricity was shut down as a precaution, workers moved from the area — all of those issues," Santostefano said.
Inspectors with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will be looking closely at whether the purging of natural gas contributed to the explosion. The inspectors, who are civilians, were initially barred from the scene, but Santostefano said Monday evening they are now part of the probe.
O&G Industries of Torrington is the general contractor building the plant, and principal David Oneglia is also a partner in the ownership of the plant.
In November, O&G paid a $1,000 fine for not meeting standards for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses, according to OSHA records. The violation is in the least serious category of violations, an OSHA spokesman said.
William Corvo, a principal partner in the Kleen Energy project, declined Monday to answer questions about safety protocols or provide details of the purging operation.
"We're focused now on the human side," said Corvo, who was the face of the project in Middletown and in Connecticut during the seven-year process to win permits, capacity contracts and about $1 billion in financing. "We have people who were hurt, people who were killed. We're worried about the families."
Kleen Energy's natural gas line connects to the Algonquin pipeline's meter station at the base of the power plant site. The Algonquin line is part of a national gas transmission system. The utility extended its local line about 1.5 miles and constructed the meter station to accommodate the project, said Algonquin spokeswoman Toni Beck.
"We introduced natural gas to the lateral and to the meter station in November," said Beck. "Since then, Kleen Energy was taking flows as they commissioned the plant."
She declined to say how much natural gas the plant was using.
Meanwhile, Congress plans to hold a hearing on the Kleen Energy explosion.
U.S. Reps. Courntey, Rosa DeLauro, and John Larson said in a statement Monday that they have received a commitment for a hearing from House Education and Labor Committee Chairman George Miller.
They made the request after surveying the blast scene.
Courtney said it was "imperative that we review what went wrong and to make sure that all appropriate measures are put in place to prevent this type of catastrophe from happening again."
Rell on Monday said she was assembling a panel of state agencies to be chaired by Senior U.S. District Judge Alan H. Nevas "to identify the cause and origin of the Kleen Energy power plant explosion in Middletown on Sunday, including any potential contributing factors" such as construction problems, worker-safety issues, the adequacy of the on-site supervision, and issues of training, licensing, and permitting.
Rell said a second group of state agencies, local officials and experts will review the disaster and the findings of the Nevas-led panel and other investigations. The second panel will determine whether any changes should be made to Connecticut laws, state and local regulations or building and fire codes to protect both workers and residents living in the areas surrounding construction projects.
"Our response to the Middletown explosion must follow two distinct but critical paths," Rell said in a statement. "We must first identify what went wrong and then determine every measure we can take to prevent future catastrophes. The reviews must be thorough, impartial and swift. And if there are concrete steps we can take in the meantime, we must be equally swift in putting those new measures into place."
Courant staff writers David Owens, Daniela Altimari and Ken Gosselin contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant
Kleen Energy plant's promise of lower energy costs put on hold
By Patricia Daddona Day Staff Writer
Article published Feb 9, 2010
The future of the Middletown Kleen Energy power plant, ravaged by an explosion on Sunday, is now on the shelf, and with it a promise of reduced energy costs in Connecticut.
A criminal investigation into the accident is under way, and a safety review and hearings by state officials and Congress are being sought. As those probes begin, prospects for Kleen Energy Systems LLC and its largest investor, Energy Investors Funds of Boston and San Francisco, to rebuild the plant remain unclear.
Consumers will not feel any impact from the devastating loss associated with Sunday's explosion because the plant had not yet begun to generate electricity. Moreover, the supply it is intended to provide would be largely surplus power, aimed at a market that is already projected to handle the load through mid-2011, at least.
The largest and only power plant of its type being built in Connecticut today, the 620-megawatt gas-and-oil fired generator of electricity is designed to run around the clock or when needed, said Erin O'Brien, a spokeswoman with ISO New England. It was on track to operate as soon as May, according to the Connecticut Siting Council.
As such, the plant was expected to help alleviate a longstanding energy bottleneck caused by high demand in southwestern Connecticut and even may have led to cheaper prices in Connecticut and New England, energy experts said Monday.
A megawatt produces enough electricity to power about 500 homes, said Derek Phelps, executive director of the Siting Council, which granted the plant a certificate of environmental compatibility and public need. That would mean the plant could have generated enough electricity to power about 310,000 homes.
Connecticut Light & Power had a contract with Kleen Energy to buy its electricity. The plant, which had been under construction since 2007 by O&G Industries of Torrington, was more than 95 percent complete when the explosion occurred Sunday.
"The loss or delay of this facility will have no impact on supply or the price of power for CL&P customers," which number about 1.2 million, said CL&P spokesman Mitch Gross. "We've already bought all of our power for 2010 and purchased most of our power for 2011. We've also gone out looking for 2012 (supplies) already."
The electricity the Kleen Energy plant would have provided and may yet provide would have been in excess of what is currently needed daily to power Connecticut, O'Brien said.
ISO New England is the regional manager of New England's bulk-power generation and transmission system, overseeing planning and fair administration of wholesale electricity markets to ensure reliability.
"Our projections at this time show we have some surplus (electricity) that's anticipated to be available in the mid-2011 time frame," said O'Brien. "We're assessing the long-term impact more fully."
Nonetheless, state Sen. John Fonfara, co-chair of the legislature's Energy Committee, said the plant is "very much needed" and was counted on to boost capacity on the power grid and help keep down energy prices.
Energy efficiency programs and improvements to transmission services have already helped alleviate congestion and lower consumer costs, O'Brien said, but she acknowledged that ample supplies would generally tend to reduce demand and lower prices further.
The Kleen Energy power plant was the largest of a variety of projects approved by the state Department of Public Utility Control to add capacity in the state, said DPUC spokesman Phil Dukes.
Connecticut has more than 7,900 megawatts of electricity at its disposal and about 25 percent of total capacity in all of New England, O'Brien said. To date, 30 percent is supplied by natural gas, 33 percent by oil, 26 percent by nuclear reactors, 7 percent with coal and 1 percent with hydro-electric power, she said.
The power plant was not required to be operational until November, with supplies of electricity not expected to be handled by ISO New England until June of 2011, O'Brien said.
Late Monday, the Fitch ratings service placed the loan terms for Kleen Energy Systems LLC on a negative ratings watch. "Fitch believes the accident may prevent Kleen from achieving the sponsor's originally projected completion date, and the length of the delay cannot be estimated at this time," the ratings agency said.
Energy Investors Funds said in a statement it is cooperating with authorities. EIF is the private equity fund manager that raised $985 million in financing to build the facility.
"Energy Investors Funds wishes to express our enormous sympathy and concern for the workers at the Kleen Energy plant and their families. We strongly value their contributions, efforts and dedication," the private equity group said.
An Associated Press report was used in this story.
Explosion Investigation Focusing On Safety Issues
Josh Kovner, The Hartford Courant
2:29 PM EST, February 8, 2010
Possible gaps in safety protocols at the Kleen Energy power plant are at the center of the investigation into Sunday's blast that killed five and injured 12. It occurred during the always-dangerous process of purging, or cleaning, of the underground, high-pressure natural-gas pipeline that runs about 800 to 1,000 feet through the facility.
Sources familiar with the purging operation and the construction and maintenance of the Kleen Energy pipeline reported these concerns to The Courant:
• That welding operations weren't entirely halted and other ignition sources may have been present during the purging Sunday morning;
• That the area wasn't completely cleared of workers and vehicles during the operation;
• Clutter and other safety issues at the site had delayed the purging operation for a short time and caused it to be re-scheduled to Sunday;
• That high-pressure natural gas was used to purge the pipe, as opposed to non-flammable nitrogen, which had been used for other operations at the plant;
• That the fill material covering the pipe was not compacted to a sufficient degree.
Deputy Middletown Fire Marshal Al Santostefano said the investigation -- being conducted by multiple city, state, and federal agencies, including the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the U.S. Chemical Safety Board -- will focus in particular on whether there were other ignition sources present during the purging.
"It's going to try to determine whether all electricity was shut down as a precaution, workers moved from the area -- all of those issues,'' Santostefano said. He said he did not yet know what type of gas was used to purge the gas line.
Investigators with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board will be looking closely at whether the purging of natural gas contributed to the explosion.
"Reports indicate that this may have involved gas purging,'' said spokesman Daniel Horowitz said. "This is an issue the board is very concerned about.'' The board recently issued safety recommendations concerning purging after investigating the natural-gas explosion in June 2009 at the ConAgra Slim Jim production facility in Garner, N.C., which caused four deaths, three critical life-threatening burn injuries, and other injuries that sent a total of 67 people to the hospital.
Santostefano said authorities believe many of those on the site at the time of the explosion worked for O&G Industries of Torrington, the general contractor building the plant, which was more than 95 percent complete.
In November, O&G paid a $1,000 fine for not meeting standards for recording and reporting occupational injuries and illnesses, according to OSHA records. The violation is in the least serious category of violations, an OSHA spokesman said.
The Middletown explosion is the most serious incident of its type in the country in at least a year, Horowitz said.
William Corvo, a principal partner in the Kleen Energy Project, declined this morning to answer questions about safety protocols or provide details of the purging operation.
"We're focused now on the human side,'' said Corvo, who was the face of the project in Middletown and in Connecticut during the seven-year process to win permits, capacity contracts, and about $1 billion in financing. "We have people who were hurt, people who were killed. We're worried about the families.
Kleen Energy's natural-gas line connects to the Algonquin pipeline's meter station at the base of the power-plant site. The Algonquin line is part of a national gas-transmission system. The utility extended its local line about 1.5 miles and constructed the meter station to accommodate the project, said Algonquin spokeswoman Toni Beck.
"We introduced natural gas to the lateral and to the meter station in November,'' said Beck. "Since then, Kleen Energy was taking flows as they commissioned the plant.''
She declined to say how much natural gas the plant was using.
Courant Staff Writers Daniela Altimari and Ken Gosselin contributed to this story.
Copyright © 2010, The Hartford Courant
Cause of Middletown blast unknown
By Lee Howard
Publication: The Day
Published 02/08/2010 12:00 AM
Updated 02/08/2010 10:38 AM
Middletown - A routine cleaning procedure preceded a huge explosion and fire Sunday morning that destroyed a natural gas plant under construction here, leaving five people dead and 12 injured.
One of those killed was 58-year Raymond Dobratz of Old Saybrook, who was working as a pipefitter supervisor. He was flown by Life Star helicopter to Hartford Hospital where he was pronounced dead.
Mayor Sebastian N. Giuliano said during a news conference at nearby Woodrow Wilson Middle School late Sunday afternoon that as many as 200 people had been working at different points during the day at the 620-megawatt plant. The plant, which is owned by Kleen Energy Systems, was constructed to be one of the cleanest natural gas-fired power facilities in the world.
It was unclear how many people were at the plant at the time of the explosion. Officials said Sunday night that no one was known to be missing but that firefighters would continue to comb through the destroyed building overnight in case there are any other victims.
"Something ignited the gas," said Giuliano, who felt the ground shake in downtown Middletown during the blast, which he likened to a sonic boom.
Residents as far away as Mystic reported that they felt or heard the blast.
The explosion occurred as power-plant personnel tried to clean two of the site's gas lines, said state Sen. Thomas Gaffey, D-Meriden. He said standard procedure is to reduce the number of people on site at the time of the gas-line purge, a protocol that may have reduced the casualty numbers.
Gaffey said workers on site most likely would have included pipefitters, plumbers and electricians. During the week, as many as 300 or 400 workers are on site, said Gaffey, who estimated the multimillion-dollar plant, which was scheduled for completion in the next few months, was about 95 percent finished.
The exterior of the power plant was largely destroyed, with the blast exposing the innards of the facility. No estimate was given for the damage.
"What used to be siding was hanging off like strips of ribbon," Giuliano said.
Nearby homes, he added, exhibited earthquake-like damage, such as crumbling walls, broken windows and cracks in the roofs. No one, however, had to be evacuated.
Marc Fongemie, deputy chief of operations for one of the Middletown fire departments, said the search-and-rescue operation was being extended to a range that included the farthest spot where debris was located. Police blocked off roads so no one could get to the blast site.
This isn't the first time a natural-gas explosion has occurred during a purging operation.
Just last year in Garner, N.C., three people were killed, four others were critically burned and 71 went to the hospital when a blast at a Slim Jim meat processing plant owned by ConAgra Foods occurred during a similar procedure. Another problem during a gas-purging operation occurred in 2008 at a Hilton Hotel in San Diego, injuring 14.
Both of these purging procedures were linked to venting gas indoors "without proper monitoring or safeguards," leading the U.S. Chemical Safety Board to issue a safety bulletin, according to an article in Occupational Health & Safety magazine.
Officials said it was unclear what led to Sunday's blast. A formal investigation will begin today, Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano told The Associated Press.
The contractor on the project was listed as O&G Industries, a Torrington company that has been involved in many local projects, including building several schools in Waterford.
Other subcontractors were also at the Middletown plant, according to officials, creating initial confusion about how many people were on the site at the time of the blast.
Guiliano stressed that the 11:19 a.m. explosion was the result of an industrial accident, not terrorism. Officials said the names of those killed would be released after their next of kin were notified.
The Red Cross has set up a hotline for families to get information about victims at (860) 347-2577. Other agencies involved in the operation included the Department of Homeland Security, Connecticut State Police and the federal Occupational Health and Safety Administration, as well as many fire departments and emergency medical responders around Connecticut.
Giuliano said he knows some victims were taken to Middlesex Hospital. Two victims were transported to Hartford Hospital.
Injuries were described as ranging from minor to potentially life-threatening.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell, who went to the scene, activated the Emergency Operations Center in Hartford.
"I thank the many first responders who are braving the very cold and windy conditions," Rell said.
Rell announced a temporary no-fly zone over the site of the plant explosion "because of the instability of the heavily damaged building." The flight restrictions are in effect until 5:21 p.m. today.
The Kleen Energy Systems plant, located at 1349 River Road, is on a prime piece of land on a hilltop overlooking the Connecticut River. The fire could be seen for miles around, officials said.
Numerous residents in southeastern Connecticut reported hearing the explosion and feeling their houses shake.
"I thought a tree fell on the garage," said Kathy Pagani of Ledyard. "I can't believe it was so far away for me to have felt it and heard it here in Ledyard."
Bob Walter of Colchester was in his basement doing some work at the time and thought it was a short tremor.
"We've had them out here before," he said. "But I was shocked when I heard that it was the accident in Middletown and thought to myself that was one heck of an explosion."
Kleen Energy Systems is controlled by Energy Investors Funds Group, according to a report on Bloomberg.com. The plant had a 15-year contract to provide enough electricity to Northeast Utilities to fuel about half a million homes, according to a summary of its project found online.
Algonquin Gas Transmission Co. is the gas supplier to the plant, according to Bloomberg.
Weston connection - O&G was construction manager of our school/fields $79 million plus bond issue projects
Power plant project beset by controversy
By Rob Varnon, STAFF WRITER
Published: 11:31 p.m., Sunday, February 7, 2010
The Middletown power plant that exploded Sunday morning, killing at least five and injuring more than a dozen people, was still under construction and already a controversial project in the region.
O&G Industries, a statewide construction company, was in charge of building the Kleen Energy plant on River Road.
A woman answering the phone early Sunday afternoon at O&G's Torrington headquarters said there was no one there to officially answer questions and that everything is "crazy right now."
The facility is listed on O&G's Web site as a 620-megawatt gas-fired power plant. That would be enough power to serve as many as 620,000 homes.
The facility's backup fuel is oil. The plant was slated to become operational this September, but a filing by the project team from January said construction was ahead of schedule and the plant could be on line in the summer. The plant itself sits near the banks of the Connecticut River.
O&G has been involved in the project since it first made its way through the local and state permitting process in 2002.
But the plant was controversial from conception mainly on environmental grounds, though some questioned the involvement of the primary developer, Philip Armetta, a politically connected businessman.
In 2006, Armetta was indicted by a federal grand jury alongside other owners of trash hauling businesses as part of the same federal investigation that involved James Galante, of Danbury.
On April 27, 2007, Armetta, then 76, pleaded guilty to one felony count of evading federal banking laws. He made multiple transactions of less than $10,000 to try to skirt mandatory reporting requirements. He was sentenced in December of that year to two months in prison and two years of probation.
While there were some grumblings in the community, going back to 2002, about Armetta's involvement, the main objections focused on environmental concerns.
There was little said about safety.
But environmentalists were concerned about spills of fuel or other discharge, especially into the Connecticut River.
One group gathered 600 names opposing the plant in 2002 because of concerns about the impact on wetlands in the area and whether it would limit access to nature trails running through the Maromas area.
Maromas is a hilly area in Middletown with several trails popular with mountain bikers and hikers.
Despite objections, the project cleared zoning, wetlands and the City Council by large majorities, though one councilman at the time, Earle V. Roberts Jr., voted against the project. Roberts had a home in the Maromas area at the time, but a number is no longer listed for him.
One of the key reasons the plant was approved by the Connecticut Siting Council in 2002 was in anticipation of providing electricity to Fairfield County via the new 345-kilovolt electricity line built by Connecticut Light & Power Co. and United Illuminating Co. That line was only being proposed at the time, but it has since been built and gone into service.
There have been several new plants approved in the state since 2002, including expansion projects in Bridgeport and Milford.
Gas blast at Conn. power plant kills at least 5
By PAT EATON-ROBB and JOHN CHRISTOFFERSEN, Associated Press Writers
Feb. 7, 2010
MIDDLETOWN, Conn. – An explosion that sounded like a sonic boom blew out walls of an unfinished power plant and set off a fire during a test of natural gas lines Sunday, killing at least five workers, injuring a dozen or more and leaving crews picking through debris for more possible victims. At least 12 people were injured in the explosion at the Kleen Energy Systems plant in Middletown, about 20 miles south of Hartford. Crews with dogs were still searching the rubble as darkness fell over the plant, on a wooded hill along the Connecticut River.
It wasn't clear how many people, if any, were still buried. Deputy Fire Marshal Al Santostefano told The Associated Press that 50 to 60 people were in the area at the time of the explosion, but authorities said multiple contractors were working on the project, making it difficult to pinpoint how many people were missing.
"I think a majority of them did survive," Santostefano said. "Most of them did walk away."
The explosion left huge pieces of metal that once encased the plant peeling off its sides. A large swath of the structure was blackened and surrounded by debris, but the building, its roof and its two smokestacks were still standing. Rescue crews had set up several tents alongside the site. The explosion happened around 11:15 a.m., Santostefano said. Mayor Sebastian Giuliano, who heard the blast, called it a gas explosion but said the exact cause wasn't immediately clear.
"It felt almost like a sonic boom," Giuliano said at an evening news conference.
The search was focusing in part on who was at the plant at the time of the explosion. Giuliano said 100 to 200 workers would have been there on a typical weekday.
"They're trying to figure out who was on the job today and where are they now," Giuliano said.
One of those killed was Raymond Dobratz, a 57-year-old plumber from Old Saybrook, said his son, Eric Dobratz, who called the elder man "a great dad."
The 620-megawatt plant, which was almost complete, is being built to produce energy primarily using natural gas. Santostefano said workers for the construction company, O&G Industries, were purging the gas lines, a procedure he called a "blow-down," when the explosion occurred. The building was still standing, but the blast blew out the sheet metal that covers its sides.
Lynn Hawley, 54, of Hartland, Conn., told The Associated Press that her son, Brian Hawley, 36, is a pipefitter at the plant. He called her from his cell phone to say he was being rushed to Middlesex Hospital.
"He really couldn't say what happened to him," she said. "He was in a lot of pain, and they got him into surgery as quickly as possible."
She said he had a broken leg and was expected to survive. Officials had not released the conditions of the other injured people by Sunday evening, although they said at least a dozen people had injuries ranging from minor to very serious. The thundering blast shook houses for miles.
"I felt the house shake, I thought a tree fell on the house," said Middletown resident Steve Clark.
Barrett Robbins-Pianka, who lives about a mile away and has monitored the project for years, said she was running outside and heard what she called "a tremendous boom."
"I thought it might be some test or something, but it was really loud, a definite explosion," she said.
Work on the plant was 95 percent complete, the mayor said.
Kleen Energy Systems LLC began construction on it in February 2008. It had signed a capacity deal with Connecticut Light and Power for the electricity produced by the plant, which was scheduled to be completed by mid-2010. The company is run by president and former Middletown City Council member William Corvo. A message left at Corvo's home was not immediately returned. Calls to Gordon Holk, general manager of Power Plant Management Services, which has a contract to manage the plant, weren't immediately returned.
Energy Investors Funds, a private equity fund that indirectly owns a majority share in the power plant, said it is fully cooperating with authorities investigating the explosion. In a written statement, the company offered sympathy and concern and would release more information on the explosion as it becomes available. Plants powered by natural gas are taking on a much larger role in generating electricity for the U.S. Gas emits about half the greenhouse gases of coal-fired plants and new technology has allowed natural gas companies to begin to unlock gas supplies that could total more than 100 years at current usage levels.
Natural gas is used to make about a fifth of the nation's electricity.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell visited the scene Sunday; she earlier called out a specialized search and rescue team to help firefighters.
The state's Emergency Operations Center in Hartford also was activated, and the Department of Public Health was called to provide tents at the scene for shelter and medical triage. Rell said the emergency teams were expected to work through the night and into Monday. Daniel Horowitz, a spokesman with the U.S. Chemical Safety Board, said the agency is mobilizing an investigation team from Colorado and hopes to have the workers on the scene Monday.
Safety board investigators have done extensive work on the issue of gas line purging since an explosion last year at a Slim Jim factory in North Carolina killed four people. They've identified other explosions caused by workers who were unsafely venting gas lines inside buildings.
The board voted last week to recommend that national and international code writers strengthen their guidelines to require outdoor venting of gas lines or an approved safety plan to do it indoors.
In February 2009, an explosion at a We Energies coal-fired power plant near Milwaukee burned six workers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is still investigating.
In the past few years, an explosion at a Dominion Virginia Power coal-fired plant in Massachusetts killed three workers in November 2007, while one worker and nine others were injured at an American Electric Power plant of the same type in Beverly, Ohio, in January 2007.
Huge Conn. power plant explosion, 'mass casualties'
Last Updated: 4:12 PM, February 7, 2010
Posted: 12:51 PM, February 7, 2010
A huge explosion at a Connecticut power plant killed at least two people and caused mass casualties.
Details on the number of injuries and fatalities varied according to different reports and various officials.
Al Santostefano, Middletown Deputy Fire Marshal told NewsCore that 50 construction workers were at the Kleen Energy power plant when the explosion occurred. Santostefano confirmed that there were fatalities and injuries, but could not confirm the number of injured or dead.
He told the Hartford Courant the devastating blast occurred as workers attempted a "blow down," or purge, of natural gas pipelines. Early reports are that the cause was a gas leak.
The search and rescue efforts are ongoing, Santostefano told NewsCore. He said he did not know of any plant workers at the location during the blast. He also said people may be trapped underneath the rubble and that emergency officials were conducting search and rescue operations.
The Hartford Courant reported medical rescue personnel as saying that there were at least two fatalities, and as many as 100 people injured, including four in critical condition. The paper also reported that as many as 20 ambulances were on scene and quoted a witness as saying "there are bodies everywhere."
The Connecticut Post reported that four people were pulled from the rubble with life-threatening injuries and a source at the scene told the Post that the death toll will rise beyond two.The Post also reported a source on scene as saying that the search and rescue operation had turned into a recovery operation as state police were on scene with rescue dogs.
Local affiliate WFSB reported that 2 had died and 250 were injured in the explosion.
Viktoria Sundqvist, managing editor of the local newspaper The Register Citizen, told Sky News that she had heard a report from an emergency worker on scene that up to 34 people had died and 100 were wounded.
The power plant is not currently operation. The plant has been under construction and is not yet online. The plant's general manger Gordon Holk told WVIT that the plant is a 620 megawatt gas-fired power plant. Fire officials on scene confirmed that the plant was connected to a natural gas pipeline.
Police Sgt. Chuck Jacobucci told NewsCore there are mass casualties, but police don’t know how many people were in the building when the explosion occurred and if the people were plant employees or construction workers. Tests were being performed in the plant Sunday but Jacobucci said he did not know if gas was involved in the tests.
Most of the injured were transported to nearby Middlesex Hospital, but some have been flown by helicopter to other hospitals, Santostefano said. Two emergency helicopters, which can transport two passengers each, have made one trip to hospitals with patients and have returned to the scene, Santostefano added.
Middletown South Fire District told Fox News earlier that 100 people were working at the plant at the time of the explosion. Fox News also reported that the explosion’s impact could be felt as far away as Long Island sound.
Middletown fire commissioner David Gallitto told NewsCore that two helicopters were on scene and had transported an unknown number of injured people to nearby hospitals, Gallitto said.
Santostefano said there were multiple structures on the power plant site. He said it appears that the explosion took place in the rear of the largest building, which was entirely damaged.
Local affiliate WTNH reported on-air that a ball of fire could be seen after the explosion. The station also reported that homes near the plant have been damaged by the explosion.