Oil and Gas Conflicts Colorado

In this March 5 file photo, Erin Martinez, who survived a house explosion that killed her husband and brother, waits to speak during a hearing before the Colorado state Senate in Denver. Martinez has become the face of a movement urging stronger regulation of the oil and gas industry in Colorado.

Erin Martinez, whose husband and brother died in an explosion at their Firestone home in 2017, Thursday demanded that the National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) remove an ad that uses video from that explosion. 

The explosion was due to an abandoned gas line that leaked into her basement.

Martinez and her son were badly injured in the April 17, 2017 blast that leveled her home. 

Thursday, the NRSC released a 30-second ad attacking Democratic Gov. John Hickenlooper, who is running for the U.S. Senate seat held by Republican U.S. Sen. Cory Gardner. The ad opened with video from the explosion that killed two members of the Martinez family.

Martinez, in a statement to Colorado Politics, said, "I woke up this morning to hear about a horrifying political ad using images from the explosion and fire that destroyed my life and killed my husband Mark and my brother Joey.

"My family and I have worked extremely hard to create positive changes that will keep my story from happening to anyone else and in doing so, honoring the memories of Mark and Joey. Not a single day goes by that we are not heartbroken and struck with unimaginable grief. This ad uses my story in a negative light and disgraces the memory of Mark and Joey."

She asked the NRSC to remove the ad.

But they aren't willing to do so. NRSC Spokeswoman Joanna Rodriguez doubled down on the ad's images, stating, “The kind of grief Ms. Martinez and her family have survived is unimaginable, and their public fight to keep other Colorado families safe is incredibly important. John Hickenlooper said he was going to do the right thing to protect Colorado families right after the explosion, but then a private donation to his office from the gas company responsible changed that. He looked the other way and, as The Denver Post reported in October 2019, left office without getting the job done.”

In March, Kerr McGee, which owned the line at the time of the explosion, agreed to an $18.25 million penalty from the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the largest in state history.

The money will go into a defined list of projects "that wouldn't have gotten funded otherwise," the COGCC said. Those projects will focus on detecting leaks and prevented future such accidents, including aerial surveys, emissions monitoring and high-tech equipment.

"How exactly are we supposed to put a dollar amount to the lives of two extraordinary men who really shouldn't have lost their lives like this in the first place? How do we attach a number to all that we have lost?" Martinez said.

She said no amount of money could compensate for what she called "extreme negligence." Though three years has passed, time has stood still for the family, she said, saying that if anything, time has only intensified the pain of losing her husband and brother.

"No amount of money can bring them back or lessen the immense amount of pain their loss brings," she said.

A statement from the Hickenlooper campaign also blasted the NRSC. “Erin Martinez is absolutely correct — Washington Republicans must take down their ‘horrifying’ and false attack and stop exploiting this tragedy and distorting the facts to score political points.”

Through a spokeswoman, Martinez said every time she sees the ad, it's what she lives through every day, and she worries about her children seeing it, too. "To see this used for political purposes is heartbreaking."

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