“Neighborhood environmental group demands action on natural gas leaks”
Northampton. A newly-formed Northampton neighborhood environmental group has demanded action on 91 ongoing natural gas leaks, some unrepaired for over fifteen years, from local natural gas distributor Columbia Gas. Calling the leaks dangerous, unhealthy, expensive to ratepayers and a threat to the climate, twenty Northampton residents requested that a plan be created immediately to fix them, that neighborhoods affected by them be informed, that their cost over the years be assessed, and that ratepayers be recompensed for that cost.
The group Twodegrees@Greenneighbors.earth, formed in the fall to respond to the threat of climate change, sent the letter today to Stephen H. Bryant, president of Columbia gas.
The neighbors living in the Massasoit Street area, had gathered to plan local actions to limit greenhouse gas emissions that cause climate change. The year 2015 was the hottest on record, spurring action to support both individual lifestyle and government policy changes to stop the burning of fossil fuels that releases carbon dioxide. They had already planned an Earth day street fair and community yard sale on Saturday, April 23.
Recently, though, they became aware of a report by Home Energy Efficiency Team MA at www.HEETMA.org listing all natural gas leaks by city in Massachusetts. The report was compiled from data collected by gas distributors. In Northampton, Columbia Gas had reported 91 existing leaks in 2015, one of them on Massasoit Street in front of a group member’s house. She had been unaware of the leak, never notified by the company.
The main component of natural gas, methane, is highly flammable and its explosion in Springfield in 2012 flattened a two-story building.
Methane is also a potent greenhouse gas, eighty times as powerful as carbon dioxide in heating the climate over twenty years.
Further, ratepayers have been charged for the wasted gas in lieu of fixing the leaks. Separate studies assuming losses of .5% * vs. 2.7% ** per year through unrepaired leaks have estimated that in the state of Massachusetts as a whole consumers have paid from $22 million to $122 million for gas they never used.
In light of the company’s ability to recover this ongoing wasted fuel, the group in their letter question the need for new natural gas infrastructure, particular the hotly contested Kinder Morgan Northeast Energy Direct pipeline being proposed to cross farmland and forest in Franklin County. Columbia Gas has placed a moratorium on all new hookups in Northampton and Easthampton until the pipeline is approved, stymying local development.
The group encourages residents to contact Columbia Gas and their local officials and demand action to fix the leaks as a measure in conservation, public health and reduced energy costs.
- – Sue Fleck. VP of Gas Safety, Ngrid, in video testimony to the Boston City Council, Sept. 2015.
** – Wofsy Harvard-University-led study, 2015, http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2015/01/boston-s-natural-gas-infrastructure-releases-high-levels-of-heat-trapping-methane