House Passes H.3873, An Act Relative to Natural Gas Leaks

Submitted by State Representative Kenneth Gordon

Ken-Gordon-letterheadThe Massachusetts House of Representatives voted unanimously on Wednesday to pass H. 3873, An act relative to natural gas leaks, which creates a uniform grading system and repair timeline for many of the over 20,000 gas leaks in Massachusetts.

“I was proud to support this practical legislation,” said Representative Ken Gordon (D-Bedford). “This bill will help reduce the burden on rate payers, protect the environment, and ensure a safer commonwealth.”

“I was delighted to join my colleagues in addressing this urgent issue,” said Representative Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead), who has filed this bill for three consecutive sessions. She has also been involved in Congressional hearings on gas leaks in Philadelphia and Washington, DC. “The law has permitted gas companies to merely monitor more than 20,000 gas leaks throughout the Commonwealth. These unrepaired methane leaks waste almost $40 million of a natural resource annually, and often lead to deadly explosions. This bill is urgently needed and will create many jobs as underground pipes are finally repaired.”

The issue of natural gas leaks was thrust into the spotlight in Massachusetts after a series of deadly explosions around the state. Massachusetts has one of the nation’s oldest pipeline systems, and the sixth highest amount of corrosive cast iron and bare steel. Nationally, gas leaks have also come into focus after a major explosion in 2010 in San Bruno, California that killed eight people and injured 58 others, and two explosions in Pennsylvania in 2011 that together killed 6 people and injured many.

8 to 12 billion cubic feet of natural gas needlessly escapes into the atmosphere each year. As a greenhouse gas, methane is estimated to be 27 times more harmful to the environment than carbon dioxide. The cost of this lost gas is passed on to ratepayers.

“This legislation presents a painless and inexpensive way to reduce emissions while also saving ratepayers money and preventing deadly explosions,” said Ehrlich. “The bill will also create jobs around the Commonwealth for those working to repair these leaky gas pipes.”

The bill passed by the House establishes a uniform classification system for gas leaks; currently, gas companies in the state operate under different definitions of what constitutes a dangerous leak. It also establishes a timeline to repair the leaks depending on their level of severity, and authorizes the Department of Public Utilities to enforce this timeline. Additionally, there is an important emphasis on repairing leaks in school zones and when municipal road construction projects expose leaking pipes.

The bill must now pass the Senate before it can be signed into law by the governor.

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