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House approves bill to repair natural gas leaks

Rep. Josh Cutler joined his colleagues in the Mass. House in approving a bi-partisan bill aimed at preventing natural gas leaks, reducing methane gas emissions and making utility companies more accountable to repair their own aging pipelines.

It is estimated that Massachusetts has 5,700 miles of leak-prone underground gas distribution pipes and in many cases consumers are forced to foot the bill for gas leaks that might occur before the gas ever reaches their property. There is little incentive for utilities to repair many of these leaks so the result is harmful methane gas being released into the atmosphere.

The bill establishes an infrastructure replacement program to accelerate the process of replacing aging pipelines in a manner that can lower capital costs for companies and gas rates for consumers. The legislation also creates uniform classification standards with corresponding requirements and timelines for repair, surveillance or reevaluation.

The legislation also creates a Gas Expansion Program which makes natural gas service available to new consumers and allows companies to offer financing programs to those switching to natural gas. This should result in cost savings for households, businesses and municipalities.

“The legislation presents a painless and inexpensive way to reduce emissions while also saving ratepayers money and preventing deadly explosions. The bill will also create jobs around the Commonwealth for those working to repair these leaky pipes,” said Rep. Lori Erlich (D-Marblehead), Vice Chair of the Joint Committee on Labor and Workforce Development.

The legislation will also:

  1. Require gas companies to coordinate surveys, replacements and repairs with municipalities and state paving organizations;

  2. Mandate gas companies to report location, classification and date of leak to DPU;

  3. Authorize DPU to establish a minimum winter patrol standard for cast-iron pipelines;

  4. Increase worker safety by requiring minimum safety standards for utility infrastructure.

The bill passed the House unanimously and now moves to the Senate.


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