Report cites slow progress fixing gas leaks
By Christian M. Wade Statehouse Reporter, via Eagle Tribune
he state's aging natural gas pipelines are still riddled with thousands of potentially dangerous and damaging leaks, according to a new report.
The report, compiled by environmental groups using data from publicly regulated utilities, found at least 15,728 gas leaks statewide at the end of 2019, some of them dating back several years. A majority are "grade 3" leaks, considered the least dangerous, but the report's authors note that any leaking combustible gas is a hazard.
"Gas leaks are potentially explosive, kill trees, harm human health and release destructive greenhouse gas," said Audrey Schulman, president of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a Cambridge nonprofit that mapped the data.
To be sure, the report shows utilities made progress fixing gas leaks last year, with at least 11,401 repairs.
A 2014 law requires the utilities to track and grade all gas leaks on a scale of 1 to 3, with 1 being most serious, and immediately repair the most hazardous. The law also requires utilities to share the information with the public.
Utilities say the majority of leaks are minor and pose no safety threat. Serious eruptions of gas lines, often reported by residents, are dealt with swiftly, they say.
Sen. Barry Finegold, D-Andover, said the lack of progress on fixing leaks since the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas fires and explosions is troubling.
"There's still way too many leaks," he said. "We know it's inevitable there will be some gas leaks, but we need a stronger commitment to fixing them."
The latest HEET report, posted at heetma.org/gas-leaks/gas-leak-maps, includes an interactive map allowing viewers to search by town and zoom-in on neighborhoods.
Here's some information on gas leaks, which was compiled using 2019 data from publicly regulated utilities.
City/town Repaired gas leaks Un-repaired gas leaks
Andover : repaired, 54; unrepaired 75
Lawrence: repaired, 214; unrepaired 97
North Andover: repaired, 49; unrepaired 38
Methuen: repaired, 243; unrepaired 126
Haverhill: repaired, 93; unrepaired 147
Total statewide: repaired, 11,401 ; unrepaired. 15,728
Source: Home Energy Efficiency Team/Gas Leaks Allies