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Year after blowout, no fines for operator

Apr 12, 2013 - By Mead Gruver, The Associated Press

"Accidents will happen," said Wyoming interim Oil and Gas Supervisor Bob King.

CHEYENNE -- A company that owns a Wyoming oil well that blew out and forced 50 people to flee their homes has not been fined in the year since the accident because the Wyoming Oil and Gas Conservation Commission determined none of its rules were violated.

A group of landowners and at least one affected couple were upset by the inaction against Oklahoma City-based Chesapeake Energy, even though the commission said human error contributed to the complete loss of control over the well last April 24 five miles northeast of Douglas.

The commission -- the state agency responsible for overseeing oil and gas drilling -- imposes fines for rule violations, not because people don't like something that happens, Wyoming interim Oil and Gas Supervisor Bob King said.

"Accidents will happen. I mean, you can't prevent every accident that is going to happen," King said Wednesday. "We don't live in a perfect world."

Investigators estimated the blowout released 2 million cubic feet of natural gas and up to 31,500 gallons of oil-based drilling mud. The gas didn't ignite and nobody was hurt. Specialists with Halliburton subsidiary Boots & Coots plugged the spewing gas three days after the blowout began.

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