August 12 2010, 11:16 AM
Xcel Energy and a contractor, RPI Coating, failed to ensure the safety of workers prior to a 2007 fire at the Cabin Creek hydroelectric plant in Georgetown that killed five, according to a draft report from the U.S. Chemical Safety Board that an Xcel attorney released to The Denver Post and 9News, sparking controversy. The 200-page draft states that an investigation of the fire revealed several pre-existing safety issues, "including a lack of planning for hazardous work, inadequate contractor selection and oversight, and insufficient regulatory standards pertaining to the use of flammables within confined space." Xcel attorney Cliff Stricklin believes the draft is inaccurate, after the utility provider spent weeks fighting in court to block its release, saying, "Xcel wants to get the important safety information to the public as soon as possible. This should have been released months, if not years, ago." Stricklin believes the safety board is delaying the release of a final report, which is expected on August 25, to influence a criminal trial next year in which Xcel and RPI face charges for their roles in the workers' deaths. 9News, quoting an official statement, reports that the safety board is "very disappointed with Xcel's efforts to block the publication of the report and now with Xcel's decision to suddenly release an older draft version of the report the company previously attempted to suppress."