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In March 2015, for the first time, every utility in Massachusetts filed a report with the Department of Public Utilities on the location of the natural gas leaks in their territory.

HEET has mapped the National GridColumbia Gas, and Eversource data by town to create Google maps of over 200 Massachusetts towns and cities. Using these maps, you can zoom in to your home, school, or business to see if there is a natural gas leak nearby and how old that leak is.

The problem

Natural gas is sent to our homes and buildings primarily through pipes under the street.  New England has some of the oldest infrastructure in the United States, including its gas pipes. As the pipes age, the materials and seams break down, leaking natural gas.

Natural gas leaks:

Can cause explosions.
In 2014, eight people were killed in a natural gas leak explosion in Harlem and 70 others injured. Twelve people were hurt in another explosion in Dorchester.

Kill trees by attracting bacteria to their roots.
The cities of Brookline. Hingham, Milton, Nahant, and Saugus all have pending legal actions against National Grid totally over $2,000,000 in damage to public shade trees.

Are harmful to human health.
Natural gas is made up approximately 95% of methane, which contributes to ground level ozone. Ground level ozone exacerbates asthma and is associated with an increase in human morbidity. The remaining 5% of natural gas is made up of volatile organic chemicals.

Are an extraordinarily potent greenhouse gas.
The small amount of natural gas that leaks from our distribution system in the Greater Boston area is calculated to be equivalent to 10% of our state’s entire greenhouse gas inventory. This means these leaks hurt the climate more than all the cars we drive. It is much easier to fix a significant percent of these leaks than it is to get people to stop driving.

Cost us money.
To add insult to injury, the utilities don’t pay for the gas that is wasted through leaks. Instead, they pass that cost onto us, the customers, by factoring it into the price we pay every month on our bills.

No need to fix it

Until now, utilities have not been required to fix any leak unless it is potentially explosive.

Since the utilities don’t have to pay the cost of the wasted gas, and since they haven’t had to fix the leaks they consider non-explosive, some of the leaks in the Greater Boston area were first reported decades ago and still have not been fixed.

A leak on the corner of Park Drive and Beacon Street in Boston was reported in 1985.  It is still leaking.

Finding the biggest leaks

A 2016 Massachusetts law (Bill H.4568, Section 13) requires gas companies to address “environmentally significant” leaks, or the ones leaking the most gas. Since the utilities have, until now, been mandated to worry only about safety, there is no proven method of finding the high-volume leaks. HEET is working to find these “super-emitters” and get them fixed.

We know that 5 to 7% of all gas leaks are gushers that emit half of all the gas being leaked. Fixing these leaks will dramatically reduce emissions and save money in the fastest, most efficient manner.

In order to ensure the utilities are actually finding and fixing high-volume leaks, HEET is conducting a pilot study with Columbia Gas, Eversource, and National Grid to identify high-volume leaks, measure the emissions, and assess which methods are most accurate.

What you can do

Please urge your legislators to support a bill that will shift the cost of all the leaking gas from us, the customers, to the gas companies. We should not have to pay for gas that is never delivered.

HD2253 and SD1113, An Act Relative to Protecting Consumers of Gas and Electricity from Paying for Leaked and Unaccounted for Gas, passes the cost of lost gas from our bills to the utilities over a period of time. The more leaks they fix now, the less they pay later. The more methane stays in the pipes, the more everyone wins.

Passage of this bill would create an incentive for utility companies to fix the leaks as quickly as possible, starting with the biggest leaks. When a similar bill was passed in Texas, 55% of the leaks were fixed within three years.

This bill, introduced by Rep Christine Barber and Sen. James Eldridge, has bipartisan sponsorship from both House and Senate.

Please call your state representative and senator at 617-722-2000 and ask them to support this bill. If you don’t know their names, just call the number above and follow the prompts.

If you smell natural gas now anywhere, call the local utility’s gas leak line to report it:

  • National Grid: 1 800 732-3400
  • Eversource: 1 800 592-2000

 

Take Action in Your Community

Download HEET’s action manual, Reducing Natural Gas Leaks in Massachusetts.

 

looking north toward Somerville

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