313,000 Jobs Created, Sustained and 81 Million Metric Tons of Climate Change Pollution Avoided by Repairing Natural Gas Distribution Lines

A groundbreaking new report from the AFL-CIO and the BlueGreen Alliance released today shows the economic and environmental benefits of accelerating the timeline for repairing leak-prone sections of our nation’s natural gas pipeline distribution system.

July 24, 2012

Moving from 30- to 10-Year Pipeline Replacement Scenario Will Boost Jobs, GDP, Save Consumers Money, and Reduce Climate Change Pollution

WASHINGTON, DC (July 24, 2014) – A groundbreaking new report from the AFL-CIO and the BlueGreen Alliance released today shows that by accelerating the timeline for repairing leak-prone sections of our nation’s natural gas pipeline distribution system, the U.S. can create more than 300,000 good, family-supporting jobs across the economy, save consumers $1.5 billion in charges for lost gas, and prevent the emission of 81 million metric tons of climate change pollution—the equivalent of taking 17 million cars off the road for a year.

“A 10-year replacement scenario would provide a much-needed economic shot in the arm while helping to limit the amount of methane being emitted into our air,” said Michael Langford, National President of the Utility Workers Union of America (UWUA). “By acting now, we can create and sustain hundreds of thousands of good jobs and provide a huge boost to our economy.”

The Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration estimates at the current rate of replacement it could take 30 years to upgrade the nation’s current stock of leak-prone pipe. Interconnected – Repairing America’s Pipelines to Strengthen Our Economy and Address Climate Change illustrates the benefits of moving to a 10-year replacement scenario from the current 30-year replacement pace.

The U.S. consumes approximately 25 trillion cubic feet of natural gas annually. Natural gas for consumers and businesses run through approximately 1.25 million miles of distribution pipelines in communities throughout the U.S. Nine percent of our nation’s natural gas distribution pipelines—approximately 112,000 miles worth—are made from leak-prone materials such as cast iron and unprotected steel and in many cases date back beyond World War II.

“The sooner we repair our nation’s urban gas pipeline infrastructure, the greater the benefit to Americans’ health, air, water, and climate,” said Michael Brune, Executive Director of the Sierra Club and co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance. “Doing so would be the equivalent of replacing 17 million gas guzzlers with electric vehicles for a year, while supporting American jobs, and saving families more than a billion dollars. Fixing and modernizing America’s in-city gas distribution pipelines is a commonsense solution for fighting the climate crisis that the President’s administration should act on right away.”

“Parts of our nation’s natural gas distribution pipelines date back to the 1800’s and present a danger not only to communities, but our environment, said Leo W. Gerard, International President of the United Steelworkers (USW) and co-chair of the BlueGreen Alliance, “Repairing this critical infrastructure sooner rather than later is necessary and America’s manufacturing workers stand ready to help.”

Uncombusted methane lost through the system, pound for pound, has at least 21 times the global warming potential of carbon dioxide over a 100-year time frame, making it a truly potent contributor to climate change.

“The AFL-CIO is proud to release this report today with the BlueGreen Alliance because it truly does show that we can create good, family-sustaining jobs for American workers while addressing our world’s largest environmental challenges,” said Brad Markell, Executive Director of the Industrial Union Council at the AFL-CIO. “Repairing America’s infrastructure is a vital part of any plan to address climate change. It is also a vital part of any plan to grow the middle-class and ensure that future generations of Americans have the same economic opportunity that we had.”

“The path forward is clear and we cannot afford to miss this opportunity to grow family-sustaining jobs, save consumers money, and improve the safety and reliability of America’s natural gas system,” said Dave Barnett, Special Representative, Pipeline and Gas Distribution Department for the United Association (UA) Pipe Fitting Industry of the United States, Canada and Australia.

“Replacing leaking natural gas distribution pipelines now, instead of 30 years from now, makes sense from an economic, environmental and business perspective,” said Kim Glas, Executive Director of the BlueGreen Alliance. “This report clearly illustrates that and also shows the need to act immediately. Many communities across the U.S. are working hard to upgrade and replace these leak-prone pipes. But where we can do better, we should—we cannot afford to miss out on the economic opportunity and we cannot continue to ignore the environmental repercussions.”

Listen to the audio from the press call below.