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Tag: Anadarko

A Game of Thrones over the Permian and the baby dragon in an egg that was the Chris Watts Criminal Trial

US oil companies are locked in a real life Game of Thrones over the Permian basin, specifically Anadarkos assets there. It’s an area described by the Financial Times as “the thumping heart of the US shale oil boom.”



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But what do the takeover bids circling through the media now for Anadarko Petroleum Corp have to do with Chris Watts?

Put on your thinking caps. You don’t need to know economics to understand the context of what follows; you just have to compare and contextualize dates and big numbers to other names and dates.

Worth playing for?

On June 15th, 2018, Anadarko signed a purchasing agreement with Centrica and Tokyo Gas for the rights to extract liquid natural gas [LNG] from the massive Mozambique field off the Southern African coast.

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While this deal was still in the offing, and before it had been finalized, an obscure employee at an obscure site in Colorado [CERVI 319] used one of Anadarko’s fracking batteries to dispose of the remains of his murdered family. The case soon made local, then national then international headlines.

Bodies of two Frederick girls found inside oil and gas tanks, sources say – Denver Post [August 16th, 2018]

Father ‘stuffed daughters’ bodies in oil tanks so they wouldn’t smell, police say – New Zealand Herald [August 16th, 2018]


Had the Chris Watts trial been allowed to fulminate in the public space, and a full-blown criminal had played out, it would have been the equivalent of burning down the entire marketing apparatus the Anadarko brand had spent millions setting up and putting in place.

It wasn’t good timing for bad publicity. Barely six months earlier, Forbes reported on  a consolidation wave sweeping the oil and gas industry. Majors were gobbling up oil minors and minnows at bargain basement prices. Deals were being made left and right with explorers that were going bust, pulling out or losing their nerve. A public relations implosion could burn away billions…

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One of the big players in this push for the Permian Throne was Anadarko. And after a pause between August 2018 and March 2019, and Anadarko making itself prettier by December 2018, by April 2019 the game for the greasy black Permian Throne was back in full swing.

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[E&P = exploration & production  company]

So what caused the pause in the game, in August until April? Well, headlines like this on August 21st, 2018, just 8 days after the Watts Family Murders rocked Frederick Colorado.

Anadarko: Mounting Risks, National Headlines, Inept Management, And Terrible Tragedies

Frederick is close to ground zero for Anadarko’s impressive Platteville run fracking portfolio.

But one assessment described Anadarko in the summer of 2018 as “becoming the foremost public enemy for anti-oil [anti-fracking] activists.” A disastrous home implosion at Firestone [neighboring Frederick], lead to several deaths and prompted political moves [known as Proposition 112] to regulate the oil and gas industry across Colorado, and beyond.

Had the proposals been implemented, they would have cost the entire industry dearly, and Anadarko in particular.

Anadarko spent almost $7 million in campaign finance to lobby the community to vote against Proposition 112, far more than any other entity, and more than triple the total raised by supporters of the proposition.

In sum, the oil-funded opposition raised almost $32 million in campaign funds, the biggest chunk as noted from Anadarko itself. The opposition barely raised $1.5 million.

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Despite disproportionate campaign fundraising, Proposition 112 was narrowly defeated, with just over 55% of voters voting “No”.

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From October 2018 [one month prior to the first hearings in the Watts criminal trial] Anadarko’s share prices fell, and continued to fall until the spring of 2019. What Anadarko were faced with, and what they had to do at all costs, was tame the dragon. And they did.

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At the time the new environmental safety proposals were voted on, in fact the same day, Chris Watts’ “unexpectedly” took a plea deal in a rushed status hearing.

The status hearing itself was strange for its suddenness. It was announced late on a Friday afternoon [at 16:20 on November 2nd] when the District Attorney filed an innocuous sounding notice of a status hearing. It caught many off guard.

Chris Watts: Deal or No Deal? [Novembert 5th, 2018]

So did the hearing itself. What was dressed up to appear as a mere formality turned out to be quite shocking. A plea deal was announced.

Watts admitted guilt on all charges essentially shutting down the prospect of a high-profile criminal trial, one that was set to eclipse the liked of OJ Simpson, Casey Anthony and Jodi Arias.

Chris Watts reaches plea deal to avoid death penalty in deaths of pregnant wife, 2 daughters

DA addresses Chris Watts’ guilty plea in the murder of his pregnant wife, two young daughters

Chris Watts Cried in Court, Wore Bulletproof Vest While Pleading Guilty to Murdering Pregnant Wife, Daughters

That was November 2018.

A lot of discovery had to be dealt with over the following weeks and months, over Christmas, and into the first few months of the new year. Chris Watts’ mistress, a safety officer was interrogated on social media. The media however, was almost completely silent on Nichol Kessinger, as was Kessinger herselfFullscreen capture 20190425 152553Fullscreen capture 20190425 152626.

Then, when the dust had finally settled on the Watts case, this, on April 24th, 2019:


Anadarko Petroleum (APC) Stock: Climbing On Takeover Offer

A bidding war breaks out as Occidental Petroleum makes $38 billion offer for Anadarko, topping Chevron’s 

Anadarko Changed CEO’s Potential Payout Before Chevron Deal

Occidental Petroleum tops Chevron’s deal for Anadarko

Occidental seeks to outbid Chevron with $57bn offer for US explorer Anadarko

Occidental makes competing offer for Anadarko Petroleum

Cramer: Chevron’s Anadarko merger won’t be the only oil deal this year

And remember that exploration purchasing agreement Anadarko was pursuing off the Southern African coast? In February 2019 Anadarko was still pursuing it, and apparently “closing in” on the supply deal.


Then, on February 5th they finally signed their deal.

Anadarko inks new Mozambique LNG supply deal



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More: Black Sunday and the demise of the American shale oil industry

"We are dealing with an insurgency" – Matt Carmichael, the manager of external affairs for Anadarko Petroleum referring to negative publicity [November, 2011, oil industry conference at the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Houston]

Is the Chris Watts case a PR boon or bust for the fracking industry in Colorado? How about Watts’ co-worker at Anadarko Petroleum Corp., Nichol Kessinger?
We’ve made some passing references to the Firestone Incident, Proposition 112 at TCRS thus far, and the surprising speed at which this criminal case was investigated, concluded and the legal detritus swept away.
It may be worth taking a closer look at how the fracking industry deal with negative publicity in general, and Anadarko’s approach in particular. The source for this story is CNBC:
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How this information came about is that an environmental activist [an anti-fracking campaigner] managed to attend to conference and recorded Carmichael’s comments during a session titled “Designing a Media Relations Strategy To Overcome Concerns Surrounding Hydraulic Fracturing,” which she flagged as the most contentious and militant, and passed along her audio files to CNBC.

The activist, Sharon Wilson, is the director of the Oil & Gas Accountability Project for the nonprofit environmental group Earthworks. She said she paid full price to attend the two day event, and wore a nametag identifying her organization as she recorded the conference.

In the audio, Carmichael can also be heard recommending a course at Harvard and MIT called “Dealing with an Angry Public,” and recommending this as a companion study guide to the US Army and Marine Corps counterinsurgency manual. The CBI references in the MIT guide isn’t the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, but a group known as the Consensus Building Institute.
When asked for comment on Carmichael’s insurgency remarks, a spokesman  for industry group Energy in Depth dismissed them as “a joke”.

For additional background on the status of fracking at Anadarko in 2011, when the above comments were made, read this report with Carmichael’s name on it.

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More: Meet the Insurgents on the Front Line of America’s Fracking War – Vice

Nichol Kessinger’s Phone Narrative Demystified

In true crime we spend so much time trying to figure out what’s missing, or what’s misconstrued, we often miss what is right in front of us. It takes insight and familiarity to get to the stage where what we see in plain sight begins to mean something.

This certainly applies to the Phone Narrative. We can spend countless hours analyzing thousands of messages across several devices, and trawl through Shan’ann’s seemingly infinite social media posts, but there is an aspect to the phones that is so obvious it’s almost laughable, and yet many have missed it.

Even when the information is provided out of context in the Discovery Documents, on page 569, we don’t necessarily see what it means.

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In the above screengrab Nichol Kessinger’s August 16th interview with CBI Agent Kevin Koback is summarized in a third person narrative. The yellow highlighted text reveals a minor, throwaway discrepancy. Do you see what it is?

We get a clearer picture of this discrepancy by looking at his and her email signatures. When all the phones were analyzed, four handsets were chosen. Kessinger’s phone [highlighted in pink below – 720 656 9605], Watts’ phones [highlighted in yellow – 910 309 1702 and 720 390 9424] and Shan’ann’s phone [highlighted in blue – 910 3286].

Watts is the only one of the three with two phones.

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The 910 number circled above is Watts’ personal phone, with the 910 prefix referring to North Carolina, just as Shan’ann’s phone is a 910 North Carolina number. Watts, however, also has a local 720 number, his work phone.

Kessinger also has a 720 number. And this is the crucial difference.

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On Kessinger’s email signature, two numbers are listed. The 970 office number is in fact a landline.

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In other words, unlike Watts, Kessinger was using her phone for personal and business use. The Discovery Documents, quoting Kessinger, say as much.

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Once their relationship developed, Kessinger said Watts moved their communication from his work phone to his personal phone [and the Secret Calculator app]. But Kessinger didn’t. She couldn’t, because she only had the one phone.

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When shit hit the fan, Watts deleted information off his personal phone. In his case, he did this in a premeditated fashion before the shit hit the fan, whereas Kessinger did so reactively off her work/personal phone after the shit hit the fan.

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This means that when Anadarko, who paid for her phone, did a GPS and phone data review at the request of the FBI and CBI on Tuesday [August 14, 2018], they likely knew about the affair based on Kessinger’s phone activity with Watts as well.

Although this is not explicitly mentioned in the phone data review, it’s difficult to imagine if the company had the capacity to investigate computer network traffic, emails and Watts’ work phone logs, that they wouldn’t do the same with Kessinger’s.

It should also be noted that to date, many have tarbrushed Kessinger for deceitfully deleting Watts from her phone. They see this as an effort to defeat justice and to undermine law enforcement efforts. While this is possible, it’s also possible Kessinger was trying to clean up her “work phone”.  She may have feared that sending risque images to a coworker could be seen as a fire-able offence, and perhaps that’s how it was seen. Do you see what I’m driving at? It’s possible she was far more fearful of getting into trouble at work than with the cops, and ultimately, her fears were well founded.

More: Why did Anadarko Fire Nichol Kessinger on August 22nd, less than 10 days after the murders?

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This clearly places Kessinger in a somewhat different light, doesn’t it? If you had one phone, and you were cheating, and your boss finding out would mean losing your job and income, wouldn’t you delete evidence of being in flagrante delicto?

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Chris Watts offered to give his third child to Anadarko Co-Worker Anthony Brown if it was a girl, and Brown saw Watts and Kessinger at work standing “extremely close” to one another [AUDIO] [41st Tranche]

At 19:32 in the audio clip, Brown mentions the day Watts announced his wife was pregnant for the third time at work. When he congratulated Watts privately, Anthony Brown confided that his own wife had suffered three miscarriages. Watts offered – or implied to offer – to give Brown his child, if it was a girl.

He also witnessed Watts and Kessinger at work standing “extremely close” to one another. He said this happened “five months ago” in an interview dated August 30, 2018.

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Why did Anadarko Fire Nichol Kessinger on August 22nd, less than 10 days after the murders?

If all Nichol Kessinger did wrong was have an affair, why was she fired?

According to the Times-Call:

During this interview, Kessinger gave Koback her phone and signed a waiver allowing him to look at phone calls and texts between her and Watts. While Kessinger questioned why investigators needed everything from her phone, she consented to let them search it. Much would have to be recovered, though, as she had deleted everything involving Watts after she discovered he was lying to her.

“Initially, you drew concern from me when you told me that you deleted everything from Chris,” Koback said, but it appears that concern dissipated. Toward the end of the interview, he told Kessinger to take her mind off the case for a while, suggesting she go out with a friend and relax.

But Kessinger was concerned about the long-term effects of her connection to the case. When Koback said she looked tired again, she said it wasn’t just because of the shock of what Watts did.

“I lost my job yesterday, so that’s where that comes from,” she said. Kessinger had worked for Tasman Geosciences, which contracted with Anadarko Petroleum Co. She told the company her situation a few days after Watts’ arrest, she told Koback, and at first they said it was fine. Aug. 22, a day later, they said they were letting her go because her contract was up.

“I have a feeling that trying to get by for the next five to 10 years is gonna be really hard,” she said.

The Deadly Firestone Explosion in Pictures

On page 755 of the Discovery Documents, mention is made of the “explosion in Firestone” in 2017. What was that all about. Well…take a look.


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Further reading:

Massive fire destroys home in Firestone

Groups call for independent investigation into Firestone home explosion

1st Anniversary Of Firestone Explosion Nears; Residents Want More Action

Uncapped, abandoned gas line caused Firestone home explosion

INSIGHT WITH JOHN FERRUGIA “Firestone Gas Explosion” – PBS

Cause of deadly Firestone home explosion ‘narrowed down’

Officials from the Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District say they have narrowed down what caused an explosion and subsequent fire that killed two people in Firestone Monday evening.

According to spokeswoman Summer Campos, investigators are “confident” about the cause, but will hold off releasing it until they are “100 percent certain.”

On Thursday, the Weld County Coroner’s office confirmed the bodies of 42-year-old Mark Martinez and 42-year-old Joey Irwin III were found in the basement of the home. They were brothers in law. 

Firestone Explosion Spurs Lawsuit

The suit is the first filed in connection with the gas explosion that killed two people last month.

Timeline Of Fatal Gas Explosion At House In Firestone

FIRESTONE, Colo. (CBS4) – A sudden violent and fatal house explosion in Firestone in April 2017 prompted statewide action related to gas wells by oil & gas officials and Colorado lawmakers including Gov. John Hickenlooper.

April 17, 2017: A home on Twilight Avenue exploded and collapsed, killing two men inside the home. A woman and child were also hurt. Witnesses say a construction crew nearby rushed to the home to help rescue the victims. Those workers reportedly used a forklift to lift the debris before pulling the woman out. The attic of the home next door was also damaged.

April 18, 2017: One day after the explosion, two bodies were pulled from the rubble. The bodies of Mark Martinez and his brother-in-law, Joseph Irwin III, were found in the basement. The woman who was taken to the hospital after the blast was Mountain Range High School science teacher Erin Martinez, Mark’s wife. Investigators confirmed the family was installing a hot water heater when the blast happened.

See Drone4 video captured near the explosion site .

April 27, 2017: Ten days after the explosion, Anadarko Petroleum Corporation announced it would close more than 3,000 vertical wells across northeast Colorado. The home on Twilight Avenue was less than 200 feet away from a well operated by Anadarko. Company officials said the move was made out of an abundance of caution. Colorado oil and gas regulators said testing for signs of natural gas leaks at the explosion site was ongoing.

April 28, 2017: CBS4 airs a report about how the state regulates the distance between new wells and existing homes, but local governments control the distance between planned new homes and existing wells. In Firestone, the requirement is 150 feet. The well next to the home on Twilight Avenue was there more than 20 years before the house was built. State records show the well was shut down in 2016, but was reopened in January 2017. Regulators last inspected it in 2014 and gave it a satisfactory rating. Great Western Oil & Co. also announced it would shut down 61 of its wells, but did not disclose where those wells were located.

May 2, 2017: The Frederick-Firestone Fire Protection District unveils the cause of the explosion was a “fugitive gas” — an unrefined, non-odorized gas — that leaked underground from a severed and uncapped flowline connected to a gas well near the home.

Hickenlooper subsequently issued an order for inspection of wells across Colorado. The order stated flowlines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings be inspected within 30 days and be tested for integrity within 60 days. The Colorado Oil & Gas Conservation Commission also responded to the findings. They called the explosion highly unusual and unprecedented, and reassured the public the proper steps would be taken to help keep this from happening again. Questions remained about whether the line was ever disconnected from the well or who cut the line.

May 3, 2017: Hickenlooper held a news conference reacting to the home explosion’s cause. He called it a “tragedy of immense intensity.” He reassured residents that their homes that are near flowlines are safe. He said there will be discussion whether officials shouldn’t have some sort of statewide regulations around “no build zones.”

May 5, 2017: Two Colorado House Democrats proposed a bill to force energy drillers to supply locations of all of their gas lines. It faced long odds of passing with only days left in the state legislative session with other must-finish work for lawmakers.

May 9, 2017: Colorado Republican lawmakers blocked a proposal to require oil and gas producers to supply locations of all of their gas lines, using a late-night filibuster to force the bill to die. Hickenlooper said well maps might be better kept by county and local authorities.

May 10, 2017: CBS4’s Rick Sallinger toured Weld County with state regulators who were looking for flowline leaks. One inspector reassured other homeowners about living near oil and gas production, saying he lives near such production, too.

May 16, 2017: Community members in Firestone gathered to honor Mark Martinez, who served as a volunteer softball coach. His daughter was surrounded by friends and family as his jersey was retired at the Firestone Sports Complex. Family members provided an update on Erin Martinez’s condition, saying she made through surgery and was fighting hard to survive.

May 16, 2017: A family who lives near the explosion site in Firestone filed a lawsuit against builders, developers and natural gas producers and controllers of a well that contributed to the April deadly home explosion. The Baum family said companies like Anadarko and Noble Energy, who owned the well prior to Anadarko, failed to confirm the well was safe after it was abandoned.

May 17, 2017: Anadarko announced it would permanently disconnect all 1-inch flow lines from vertical wells. Officials also pledged to supply methane-detecting equipment for residents in the neighborhood.

May 23, 2017: With the deadline set by the governor approaching, few energy companies have reported results of state-ordered inspections of oil and gas pipelines, according to the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. COGCC Director Matt Lepore warned the state could order operators to shut down wells connected to pipelines.

May 24, 2017: Anadarko Petroleum Corporation announced it would permanently shut down the well next to the home that exploded as well as two others in the neighborhood. Anadarko officials said they believe the three wells are safe but that they would shut them down because of “special circumstances and sensitivity surrounding this equipment.”

June 2, 2017: Sallinger accompanied a Fort Collins company that detects methane leaks. The company, Red Hen Systems, uses a van that looks like something out of Ghostbusters, but what it does can save lives. Phase 1 of the inspections was completed this week and concentrated on flow lines within 1,000 feet of occupied buildings. Phase 2, to be completed in late June, involves pressure testing to make sure no gas is escaping.

A Year After The Deadly Firestone Explosion, Neighbors’ Emotions Are Mixed

Anadarko agrees to settlement with families involved in deadly Firestone explosion – May 23, 2018

“Although the (National Transportation Safety Board’s) ongoing investigation limits the company’s ability to discuss the event, it is clear that Mark Martinez and Joey Irwin were innocent victims in the explosion,” according to the news release. “Neither they nor Erin Martinez bear any responsibility or fault for what occurred.

“The people of Anadarko express their deepest condolences to both families, and to all affected families, friends and communities.”

Details of the settlement weren’t immediately available.

Earlier in the day, the company announced it demolished the house were the deadly explosion occurred.

The Daily Times-Call reported Anadarko had purchased the property at the site of the explosion that killed two people, injured a third and destroyed a house. Anadarko spokeswoman Jennifer Brice says the house was bought as part of a settlement agreement following the blast. The company says it is working with city officials and others to determine the best use of the property.

Uneasy quiet in Firestone one year after fatal gas explosion

The April 17, 2017, incident has set off a storm of its own, inciting activist passion, industry concern and a sweeping set of new regulations. For the first time, it seemed, the dire predictions of anti-fracking activists had come to terrible fruition: Innocent men had been killed, victims of the unrelenting progress of oil and gas development amid a continually expanding population.

But here on Twilight Avenue, things are quiet.

Kids are still playing in the street. Residents still walk their dogs and water their lawns. It still looks like a lovely suburban neighborhood where one could buy a dream home.For Hoylman, that dream was punctured by the death of two of her neighbors.

“I thought this was going to be my last home,” she said. “I was going to retire here. But it didn’t quite work out that way.”

Initial reports revealed that a line from a nearby well had been cut ahead of construction of Oak Meadows subdivision. The line, though in disuse, had not been disconnected from the well, owned by Anadarko Petroleum Corporation. Gas leaked into the basement of 6312 through a French drain and sump pit.

A more comprehensive investigation, led by the National Transportation Safety Board, is still ongoing. Spokesperson Keith Holloway said such cases typically take 12 to 18 months, meaning answers could be as far away as October, if not farther.

Debris from the incident remained for months. “You’d see a shirt, a little pink sweater,” Hoylman said. “Their sofa made it, but nothing else.”

At first, the neighborhood was brought close together by mutual concern and a need for answers. Anadarko held a series of meetings closed to anyone but Oak Meadows homeowners. But when the meetings stopped and the debris was cleared away, the temporary sense of closeness dissipated.

The family in the partially-burnt 6310 moved away; Anadarko bought their house in February for $402,600, property records show — part of a settlement, the company said. Next steps for the site are still being determined in partnership with the homeowners association, according to an Anadarko spokesperson.

Accident or inevitability?

The story of Firestone, of what happened on that day, is different depending on whom you ask. To oil and gas companies and those who regulate them, the explosion was a freak accident, a tragic event brought about by a set of circumstances not likely to be repeated.

To the fervent critics of the fossil fuel business, Firestone is one of many such incidents waiting to occur, inevitably, when industry intersects suburban sprawl.

“We’ve had 14 explosions since Firestone throughout Colorado,” said Sara Loflin, executive director of the nonprofit advocacy group League of Oil and Gas Impacted Coloradans (LOGIC). “And yet you have oil and gas continuing to insist on bringing these large-scale industrial sites closer and closer to neighborhoods and continuing to insist that they’re safe.”

The Denver Post reported in December that there had been 12 oil and gas-related fires and explosions in the eight months following the Firestone fatalities, including a May 25 blast in Meadthat left one worker dead and three others injured.

Said Loflin: “It’s hard to insist they’re safe when we keep hearing about accidents (and) explosions.”Colorado’s regulations are the toughest in the country, local oil and gas executives and regulators insist. They got tougher after the explosion: More than a dozen new rules pertaining to flow lines — the equipment severed but still connected to an active well in the Firestone incident — were introduced by the Colorado Oil & Gas Commission in February.

The Firestone Effect

The COGCC so far has not started disciplinary measures against Anadarko. The agency typically has one year from the date of the accident to begin an enforcement action, but Anadarko waived that condition through a tolling agreement.

COGCC spokesperson Todd Hartman said he did not know when that process would start.

“There are no words” to describe the feeling at Anadarko offices the day of the explosion, Brice said. “We think about it daily, especially those who live in and around Firestone. We also recognize that pales to what the families and surrounding community endured.”


In the end, the family members declined to speak openly with the Times-Call and Camera, out of fear of jeopardizing ongoing negotiations with Anadarko.

“I can’t even imagine” how Erin’s life has changed, Hoylman said of her former neighbor. “It was like everything was taken away.”

Hoylman’s life has changed, too. She has for the first time become involved in activism, calling and writing local and state elected officials, even penning a letter to Hickenlooper that has (so far) gone unanswered.

She is plagued by anxiety whenever she encounters signs of drilling activity — a frequent site in and around Firestone. “When I go for a run, (when) I go riding, there’s wells. I go on the highway to go to work, there’s wells. I see them and I cry,” she said.

Ideally, she would move away: “Somewhere there’s no fracking,” she said. A handful of homes in the neighborhood have sold since the explosion, for decent profits. But Hoylman hasn’t been able to bring herself to list the house she purchased in June 2015 for $390,000.

The thought of facing prospective buyers, of confronting them with the history of the neighborhood, distresses her.

How do you tell what happened here? she asked.