Governor M. Jodi Rell today announced she is 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 and licensing or permitting matters.
Governor Rell said she is forming a second group of state agencies, local officials and subject-matter experts to 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.
“The explosion in Middletown not only shattered the peace of a quiet Sunday morning, it led to the tragic loss of five valuable lives and devastated their families,” Governor Rell said. “There are so many unanswered questions: What led to this disaster? What were the contributing factors? Could anything have been done to prevent it? These are the questions that we must answer now, not only for the sake of the victims and their families but to avoid tragedies like this in the future.
“Our response to the Middletown explosion must follow two distinct but critical paths,” the Governor said. “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.”
Governor Rell said the Nevas panel will include representatives from the Department of Environmental Protection, the Department of Labor, the Connecticut State Police (including the Office of the State Fire Marshal and the Office of the State Building Inspector), the Department of Consumer Protection and the Department of Public Utility Control.
The group will examine issues such as whether all necessary permits were obtained, whether there was sufficient on-site supervision at the time of the explosion, whether all applicable labor laws were followed, whether all safety measures were followed, whether all employees were properly licensed and trained and whether fire and building code provisions were followed.
The second panel is to be chaired by James “Skip” Thomas, recently retired Commissioner of the state Department of Emergency Management and Homeland Security and former Glastonbury police chief. State agencies to be represented on the panel include the Department of Public Utility Control, the Office of the State Fire Marshal, the Office of the State Building Inspector and the Department of Public Works. Representatives from engineering and architectural firms, as well as municipal engineering and fire officials, will also be asked to participate in the review.
The Thomas panel will review state and local permitting processes, building codes and construction oversight methods as they relate to the construction of power plants and large industrial facilities with on-site generating facilities, as well as training and safety protocols for testing power systems – including maintaining accurate lists of personnel who are present during such tests.
“Like safety on the job site, these reviews must be a group effort,” Governor Rell said. “All of us must share a single goal: To avoid a repeat of Sunday’s terrible explosion and the resulting loss of life, injuries and property damage.”