BlueGreen Alliance

Good Jobs, Clean Environment, Green Economy

Nov 28 12

Wicked, Crazy Report on Leaking Natural Gas in Massachusetts

The following post is from Charlotte Brody, Associate Director, Health Initiatives.

A new report out of Massachusetts today should be enough to convince anyone, even the deficit doom-dayers, about the need for infrastructure investments. It shows that the Bay State lost more greenhouse gases from leaking natural gas pipelines than has been saved from all of the state’s energy efficiency efforts. 

And ratepayers have been subsidizing this contribution to global warming because local natural gas distribution companies can pass on all the costs of “fugitive emissions” on to their customers. 

Is this crazy? Yes. And is this a piece of mental illness we can cure? Yes, yes, yes. Into Thin Air, the Conservation Law Foundation’s white paper lays out a set of solutions that would repurpose the money that is now going “into thin air” to putting people to work modernizing the ancient pipeline infrastructure that runs under the homes and businesses of Massachusetts. As Mike Langford, the National President of  the Utility Workers of America explained:

…fixing this problem provides an important opportunity. Putting people to work fixing leak-prone pipelines will save Massachusetts ratepayers money by simultaneously modernizing our pipe infrastructure, improving efficiency and helping to protect the environment. 

And the problem isn’t just in Massachusetts. While most of the centuries old cast iron pipe is in New Jersey, New York, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, other states share this important problem. 

The white paper lays out five key ways we can remove the financial disincentive that makes fugitive emissions free for gas companies and expensive for natural gas consumers: 

1)     Establishing Leak Classification and Repair Timelines that provide a uniform system for classifying leaks according to level of hazard and require repair within a specified time;
2)     Limiting or Ending Cost Recovery for Lost and Unaccounted for Gas so that companies have an incentive to identify the causes of lost gas and prevent them;
3)     Expanding existing replacement programs and adding performance benchmarks;
4)     Changing Service Quality Standards to include requirements for reducing leaks on the system;
5)     Enhancing monitoring and reporting requirements to give the public and regulators more information.

These are sane and smart steps we can take to put people back to work, solving a global warming problem and a public safety problem at the same time.