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Family of worker killed in southwest Pa. gas well fire sues Chevron

The family of Ian McKee, a worker who was killed in a February natural gas well explosion in Greene County, is suing Chevron Appalachia.

Katie Colaneri/ StateImpact Pennsylvania

The family of Ian McKee, a worker who was killed in a February natural gas well explosion in Greene County, is suing Chevron.

The family of a worker who was killed in a February explosion at a Chevron natural gas well site in Greene County has filed suit against the company.

Ian McKee, 27, was a contract worker with Texas-based Cameron International. On the morning of Feb. 11, McKee was participating in a safety meeting on the site in Dunkard Township when state officials said one of three wells on the pad burst into flames, killing McKee and leaving another worker with minor injuries.

The fire continued to burn for five days. McKee’s remains were found more than a week after the explosion. He left behind a fiancee who was pregnant with his child.

John Gismondi, a lawyer for McKee’s parents, Denise Olsen and Robert McKee, said they are filing suit in order to make a legal claim for information about the circumstances of their son’s death.

“Chevron is not a public entity. It’s not like a local government agency or something where you can make a Freedom of Information Request and you’re legally entitled to get certain things,” Gismondi said. “They’re a private entity, so having a legal claim on record is what gives you a legal right to demand information from them.”

The suit was filed in the Allegheny County Court of Common Pleas.

Chevron spokesperson Lee Ann Wainwright said the company will respond to the lawsuit “in due course.”

“The circumstances leading to the filing are tragic, and our thoughts and prayers are with the family and friends of Ian McKee,” she said in an email.

The Department of Environmental Protection expects to release an after-action report detailing the incident by the end of July, said Scott Perry, DEP’s deputy secretary for oil and gas management.

The DEP has issued nine violations against Chevron for the incident, including “hazardous venting of gas,” “open burning,” and “discharge of production fluids onto the ground.” The company was also charged with blocking access to DEP officials for nearly two days after the fire broke out.

Lawmakers praised state regulators for a “textbook” response to the fire. However, Chevron sustained widespread criticism for its response – in particular, for giving out coupons for free pizza as an apology to nearby residents.

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