Rep. Lori A. Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) has filed a bill aimed at reducing natural gas leaks, an effort to keep the public safe and save ratepayers' money.
She filed gas leak legislation in two earlier sessions of the Legislature, and she and her colleagues hope number three is the charm.
"An Act enhancing natural gas pipeline safety (HD 1941) seeks to prevent explosions, which are often deadly, and reduce costs from waste of natural resource and damage to property," she stated in a news release. "Lost and unaccounted for natural gas from pipeline leaks cost Massachusetts’ ratepayers an estimated $38.8 million annually."
The representative said the state's infrastructure is among the oldest in the nation and Massachusetts has one of the highest rates of explosions.
“There are over 20,000 known gas leaks across the Commonwealth with over 3,400 in Boston alone, it seems like everyone has a story to share about a gas leak near their home or place of work. We can no longer count on the gas companies to self-regulate.”
The new legislation comes on the heels of a pared down bill, passed by the Massachusetts House of Representatives, but stalled in the Senate at the end of the 2011-2012 legislative session. The new language builds off of bills first presented by Representative Ehrlich in the 2009-2010 session and expanded in the 2011-2012 session.
The centerpiece of the legislation is a three-part natural gas leak classification standard which all gas companies operating in Massachusetts must follow when they inventory leaks. This uniform grading system will guide priority of repair or replacement. The most hazardous leaks must be repaired and gas companies must monitor non-hazardous leaks from the time of detection.
Because Massachusetts has such a large number of leaks over such a small area, Ehrlich has taken further steps to include additional repair and replacement provisions. Under her bill gas companies would be required to repair or replace compromised pipelines found under road projects, near gas leak damaged trees, and within any school zone.
Leaks represent a public safety risk and waste ratepayers' dollars, she said.