Category: Pipelines

Press Release: Northampton Pipe Leaks

Link to .docx file: press release noho gas leaks


“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, 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 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,

Pipeline Leaks: Northampton Neighborhood Letter to Columbia Gas

Link to .DOCX document:   northampton letter to colulmbia gas

Stephen H. Bryant, President, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts

4 Technology Drive Suite 250

Westborough, MA 01581


Dear Sir:

We write to you out of grave concern for the at least 91 outstanding unrepaired gas leaks from Columbia gas equipment and hookups in the City of Northampton, some of them dating back to 1999.

We are a group of neighbors who have begun meeting to address the challenge of climate change.  We know that methane is a potent greenhouse gas, eighty times as powerful as carbon dioxide.  We also know that Columbia Gas, along with Berkshire Gas, claims that there is insufficient natural gas supply on winter peak use days, and has called for a moratorium on new gas hookups in Northampton until the Northeast Energy Direct Pipeline has been approved by the Federal Energy Regulation Commission.

It was while investigating the validity of these claims concerning gas supply to our area that we discovered the research/ done by Home Energy Efficiency Team (HEETMA) with its “Squeaky Leak” Project. /  The information about the 91 gas leaks in the Northampton are from Columbia Gas records alone.  Your company has known about them and not repaired some of them for more than fifteen years.

This is startling and dismaying to us for several reasons:

1)  Gas leaks are dangerous. Natural gas is flammable and could lead to fires and explosions, like the one which flattened a two-story building on Worthington Street, Springfield in 2012.

2)  Leaks are unhealthy. The additive mercaptan is toxic to brain and nerves.

3)  Gas leaks contribute in an outsized way to climate change because of methane’s potency as a greenhouse gas.

4)  Leaks burden your customers who, for years, have been paying for gas that has been wasted. It has been estimated that the total yearly cost to ratepayers in the State of Massachusetts ranges from $22 million * to almost $122 million*.

As we were reviewing the leaks, we discovered to our collective alarm that one of the leaks is at the home of one of our members. She had never been informed. When she called your company to inquire, she had to demand that a work order be created.

We are at a loss as to why these leaks have not been repaired and require answers immediately to the following questions:


1)    Why have the gas leaks, some of which have been known about since 1999, not been repaired or even reported to the neighborhoods at risk?

2)    How much gas is being leaked daily into the atmosphere, and how much has been leaked over the last twenty years?

3)   Why, if the sufficiency of natural gas supply to Northampton is at issue, have the gas leaks not been repaired?

4)    What are your plans to repay Northampton customers for the years of payment for gas wastage from these known leaks?

5)   What is your specific plan for repairing all the leaks?

In the interest of public health, it behooves you immediately to inform all neighborhoods of the existence of the leaks and to start work on repairs.

In light of this long-term profligacy with the gas supply, you should also reconsider your assessment of the adequacy of gas supply to our area and the need for new natural gas infrastructure.

We expect a timely response.  Please contact us through

Marty Nathan MD at 413-531-9915 or at

24 Massasoit St., Northampton, MA 01060,

We will be speaking to our public officials and to the press about our concerns.



Christine Olson

Kit Sang Boos

Marty Nathan

Elliot Fratkin

Hermine Levey

Peg Johnson

Hermine Levey Weston

John Yount

Giovanna Bellesia-Contuzzi

Peter Contuzzi

Jim Levey

Paul Spector

Jane Cross

Lynn Matteson

Mary Lavo Ford

Michele Wick

Barbara Tytell

Vanessa Adel

Suzanne Theberge

Denise Lello



  • – Sue Fleck. VP of Gas Safety, Ngrid in video testimony to the Boston City Council, Sept. 2015.

** – Wofsy Harvard-University-led study, 2015,



Poets Against the Pipeline! Fundraiser March 26 in Greenfield


This is the week! Western MA turns out to demonstrate our opposition to the pipeline…

Click on image to view all the details on this weeks pipeline protest walk,  and  all the evening events!!


Join us for some or all! March 17 – March 20


We’re getting ready!


Lessons from California gas disaster; Bring them Home to Western MA

Marty Nathan, MD: Lessons from California gas disaster


A year and a half ago I wrote about the gas leak at my house that caused the fire department to evacuate the neighborhood. While on vacation, mice chewed through the line connecting a propane tank to our backyard grill. Luckily, our smart 13-year-old neighbor who was caring for our backyard chickens in our absence smelled the gas and told her mom, who called the alarm.

And even more fortunately, the leak was small, no one lit a match and the crisis passed within an hour.

Not so lucky for the folks of Porter Ranch, California, an upscale suburb of Los Angeles. A little over two weeks ago the California Secretary of State joined his neighbors in leaving his home there in order to protect himself, his wife and three small children from the toxic effects of the methane leak from the nearby huge Aliso Canyon underground storage facility. Massive emissions of methane were pouring into the air from where it is stored under high pressure in an old well 3,000 feet underground. The methane (the major component of natural gas) was delivered by pipeline mostly from West Texas.

It created a plume a mile high and several miles long from Oct. 23, 2015, until it was “temporarily” plugged Friday. It continued for three and a half months because of the depth of the storage, the pressure and complexity of the storage system and, well, because neither Southern Cal Gas nor any other fossil fuel company has bothered to make a plan for such a disaster. Sound familiar?

It does to quite a few environmental experts. Famed lawyer Erin Brockovich has joined others in comparing it to the BP’s Deepwater Horizon oil blowout and spill in the Gulf of Mexico. Boston University Prof. Nathan Phillips says, “This is a contamination of atmosphere rather than ocean waters. It is more of a respiratory version of (Deepwater Horizon).”

Aliso Canyon spewed over 90,000 tons of methane into the atmosphere. The mercaptan in it has made people sick, forcing the evacuation of over 2,000 people from the area and closing two local schools. Of course the gas is volatile, and devastating fires and explosions have been possible. Since our atmosphere has no boundaries, of course this is not just a local disaster. Methane is a greenhouse gas, 80 times as powerful as carbon dioxide. What was emitted is equal to eight million tons of carbon dioxide, a quarter of the greenhouse gas cuts that California’s ambitious global warming mitigation plan is set to eliminate.

It is a big hit to the climate, something to be mourned on behalf of the future of those living on our planet.

But let us learn the Aliso Canyon lesson here, in Massachusetts.

Natural gas, methane, is not a safe or appropriate “bridge fuel” to a future of renewable energy. Though burning the final product is less polluting than burning coal, the leaks all the way along the production and delivery system — the worst example being Aliso Canyon — wipe out any benefit that the “cleaner burning” bestows.

And leaks are everywhere. There will be planned releases at the compressor stations along the Northeast Energy Direct pipeline in western Massachusetts. In Boston, the Environmental Defense Fund earlier found a leak approximately every mile traversed by National Grid’s often 50-year-old pipes. Aliso Canyon calls us to do a few things:

  • Stop the gas leaks at wells, storage tanks and pipes. In Massachusetts the Natural Gas Leak law must be implemented throughout the state.
  • Prevent the building of any new natural gas infrastructure. Yes, I mean the Northeast Energy Direct and the West Roxbury Lateral Pipelines, which are needed not for Massachusetts consumers but instead for natural gas profit through export. Join the march “Taking Steps to a Renewable Future” from March 17 to 20 from Windsor to Northfield between proposed NED stations.
  • Use due diligence to conserve and make the transition to renewable energy. Call your legislators and ask them toensure the elimination of the cap on net metering of solar energy to support that transition from dangerous, climate-killing fossil fuels.

Marty Nathan, MD, lives in Northampton and is a physician at Baystate Brightwood and a member of Climate Action NOW.   This op-ed was published in the Hampshire daily Gazette Thursday, February 18, 2016

Town of Montague needs donations right now for pipeline legal work

The Town of Montague is seeking donations and fundraising  partners to support the Town’s intervention in a case before the Mass. DPU (Dept. of Public Utilities) in which Berkshire Gas seeks approval of a contract to reserve space on the NED pipeline.

Challenging such contracts (also called “precedent agreements”) is crucial to defeating the pipeline—because contracts are ALL that FERC looks at in determining “need” for a pipeline.  FERC spokespeople have always stated this, and (sadly) the FERC commissioners  emphatically re-affirmed that contracts are all they look at to determine “public convenience and necessity” in two major pipeline decisions the FERC Commissioners issued on January 28. (1)

Thus, successfully challenging any contract for capacity on the pipeline will weaken the pipeline’s ability to get FERC approval.

Because the DPU has fast-tracked this case, Montague seeks to raise $25,000 by mid-March, and then additional funds for a possible appeal to the Massachusetts courts.  Every donation will help, from $5 to $10,000.  Of course, if one or more “angels” steps forward to give higher amounts, the campaign will be much faster and easier.  The Town will publicly thank and credit any “angel” individual, organization, or business who wishes to be named.  Continue reading

No new pipelines!

In order to slow down climate disruption, we must transition from greenhouse gas-producing fossil fuels to non-polluting, renewable energy such as solar and wind.   We need to stop new fossil fuel infrastructure. Leave it in the ground!

Climate Action Now is a sister organization to the Sugarshack Alliance, which brings together several local anti-pipeline groups.

Sugarshack Alliance is currently involved in the struggle to stop the Connecticut Expansion Pipeline in Otis State Forest.  Click here to see a compilation of media coverage.

To contact Climate Action Now, please email us at

For extensive information about regional  pipelines please go to

Background info on DPU pipeline hearings coming up: do your homework, and save the date!

Here is some great info about the pipelines and DPU from our friends at  North Quabbin Pipeline Action North Quabbin Pipeline Action and NoFrackedGasinMass.  Please find links to downloadable, printable documents at the bottom of this page.

SAVE THE DATE:      March 29 in Pittsfield   &   March 30 in Greenfield


nfgimKinder Morgan/TGP Northeast Energy Direct (NED) Pipeline and the MA Department of Utilities (DPU)

Tennessee Gas Pipeline and National Grid File Petitions with the MA Dept. of Public Utilities (DPU) involving Proposed NED Pipeline. (January, 2016)

Who are the Players for this Round in early 2016?

MA DPU — The mission of DPU in part states:  The Department is responsible for oversight of investor-owned electric power, natural gas, and water utilities in the Commonwealth….  The Department is to ensure that utility consumers are provided with the most reliable service at the lowest possible cost; to protect the public safety from transportation and gas pipeline related accidents; to oversee the energy facilities siting process; and to ensure that residential ratepayers’ rights are protected.

The DPU has a staff of hearing officers working in this state agency under the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs headed by Sec. Matthew Beaton. The appointed Commission of three members makes the final decisions on petitions after public hearings are held.  Anyone who does not wish to speak at hearings may just submit written comments. Those who choose to do both do not have to have those statements match. Since speakers are only allowed several minutes, it’s best to make clear, impactful spoken statements, and leave longer, more detailed statement for written submission – those may be as long as you’d like them to be.

Tennessee Gas Pipeline/NED Project The proposed Kinder Morgan/TGP Northeast Energy Direct (NED) is a 30” high pressure gas transmission pipeline. Tennessee Gas in their FERC Certificate Application Filing on Nov. 20, 2015 presented Resource Reports to FERC. Their proposed route enters Massachusetts in Hancock and follows a path from Hancock to Northfield, MA, affecting eight towns in Franklin County, before entering Southern New Hampshire.  It then descends back into Massachusetts near Dracut and spreads out over several smaller lateral pipelines affecting many more communities in the east. There is also a lateral arm to the system that enters Massachusetts at Townsend. In January, 2016 Tennessee Gas petitioned the MA DPU asking permission to survey over 400 parcels of land that are on the proposed route in Massachusetts.

National Grid – National Grid is an international electric and gas company based in England and the northeastern US. According to their website, National Grid “connects more than seven million gas and electric customers to vital energy sources.”  National Grid delivers electricity to approximately 3.4 million customers in Massachusetts, New York and Rhode Island.  The electricity industry connects generation sources to homes and businesses via transmission and distribution networks. Electricity is sold to consumers by companies such as National Grid who have bought it from the generating plants.

Why is Understanding the Links between the MA DPU, Tennessee Gas/NED Project and National Grid Important?

Tennessee Gas Pipeline /NED and National Grid filed petitions with the MA Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in January, 2016.  The DPU must hold public hearings and accept written comments from citizens before the DPU Commissioners rule on the petitions.  If the DPU takes months to issue their findings this delays things.  If the DPU does not rule in favor of the petitions then this slows the process even more.  So it is important to attend public hearings and take other action (see

The “Survey”  Petitions to the MA DPU – What Are They?

Tennessee Gas Pipeline/NED Petitions (#16-01/02/03) to the MA DPU — These petitions want MA DPU to grant approval of their request to survey over 400 privately owned land parcels which are on the proposed gas pipeline route for the Northeast Energy Direct (NED) project.  With less than 50% of their on the ground surveys complete, TGP needs access to survey more land to support their FERC application. Tennessee Gas must perform civil, archeological, cultural, wetlands, waterbody and endangered/rare species surveys as well as geotechnical surveys on some parcels.  If granted, TGP would be allowed onto land against landowners’ wishes to conduct surveys. This includes allowing them to cut any trees, shrubs or branches under 2” in diameter to clear a line of sight, and to drill small bore holes for geotechnical surveys where needed.

NO Need for New Gas Infra-structure —This proposed pipeline is an over-sized response to the region’s future energy needs.  The energy industry is calling for more energy infra-structure to meet peak energy needs that happen only 30 days out of the year. This new pipeline is not needed. (See Att. Gen. Healey’s report –Power System Reliability in New England: Meeting Electric Resource Needs-  Nov. 2015)

 Stop the Pipeline Response — This project is not needed which means that the DPU should not be involved and should not grant Tennessee Gas (TGP) the right to survey without the landowner’s permission.

Public Hearings on these petitions will be held at six locations across the state.  The hearings in Western MA include:  March 29th in Pittsfield   and March 30th in Greenfield at 7:00 p.m. For a full schedule of hearings see Anyone may  submit written testimony by May 6, 2016.

 National Grid Petitions (#16-07/05) to the MA DPU – National Grid’s petition to the MA DPU lays out their proposed plans for a tariff and a transportation capacity contract with the Tennessee Gas Pipeline/NED project which they want DPU to act on by October, 2016.

Tariff – “Capacity Cost Recovery Provision Tariff” — National Grid is proposing to put in place a tariff to recover costs of getting gas capacity from Tennessee Gas.  This includes costs concerning transportation contract, cost of a capacity manager, administrative costs and an Innovation Incentive (“equal to 2.75% of total fixed contract payments” for NG – p. 7 of Ann Leary’s written testimony).  This tariff would be figured as a cost per KwH used by all customers and put on distribution side of bill if approved.

Proposed National Grid Transportation Capacity Contract with Tennessee Gas — National Grid argues that their petition asking approval of a firm transportation capacity contract is consistent with DPU rulings (DPU 15-37 – 2015) and that “new natural gas delivery capacity may be added to the New England Market, including actions to be taken by the electric distribution companies” (p. 8 in petition).  National Grid wants the DPU to approve a 20 year transportation capacity contract with NED and to also approve a plan for the “release of capacity available” via NED and “release of capacity and sale of LNG supply available through Access Northeast (ANE – #16-05).” They consider this innovative so in their thinking it qualifies for an incentive which is part of a tariff to be paid by ratepayers.  If National Grid gets approval from DPU then it would also need approval from FERC and could release its capacity to the electric market.  It appears that their plan is to have capacity to get gas and sell to electric generating plants during the times of the year when they say there is a shortage of gas for generating plants (maybe 20-30 days in winter).

 No Need for this National Grid Plan – This plan is not innovative and does not warrant a tariff to be paid by rate-payers.  The plan seems to set up National Grid as the seller of gas to generating plants and then the buyers of electricity from these same plants and thus create a conflict of interest.  Bringing more gas into the state for generating plants, which already use about 40-45% natural gas for electricity generation, means more of an imbalance.  This means that Massachusetts moves farther from a diverse energy system and suppresses the move toward more renewable energy use..

Schedule of Public Comment Hearings to be held by the Massachusetts DPU for:

Northeast Energy Direct (“NED”) Survey Petitions –  Tennessee Gas Pipeline (#16-01/02/03)

Tuesday, March 29

7:00 p.m.

Berkshire Community College, Boland Theater

1350 West Street

Pittsfield, MA 01201



Wednesday, March 30

7:00 p.m.

Greenfield Middle School Auditorium

195 Federal Street

Greenfield, MA 01301

Tuesday, April 5

7:00 p.m.

Lunenburg High School Auditorium

1079 Massachusetts Avenue

Lunenburg, MA 01426

Wednesday, April 6

7:00 p.m.

Lynnfield Middle School Auditorium

505 Main Street

Lynnfield, MA 01940

Wednesday, April 13

7:00 p.m.

Dracut Senior High School Auditorium

1540 Lakeview Avenue

Dracut, MA 01826

Thursday, April 14

7:00 p.m.

Andover High School Auditorium

80 Shawsheen Road

Andover, MA 01810


The Department also accepts written comments, which are given

equal consideration to comments made at a public comment hearing.

Written comments may be submitted through Friday May 6, 2016.

Written comments should be emailed to:

and Hearing Officer Stephen August at

If you wish to send comments by regular mail, please send them   to:

Department of Public Utilities

Siting Division

1 South Station

Boston, MA 02110

Attn:  Stephen August, Hearing Officer


Possible Actions to Take Now Regarding DPU Petitions

  • Join with others and Attend Hearings – Speak or Write a Comment to Send to DPU. Watch for Information on rally activities at hearings.
  • Call and/or email Governor Baker and your elected officials

++ Tell officials that you object to the DPU allowing Kinder Morgan/Tennessee Gas Pipeline (NED) project  to survey on land where people denied access.

++ Tell the Governor and elected officials that you object to the tariff that National Grid wants the DPU to approve for their transportation capacity contract.

See for contact information, talking points and other actions.

  • Become informed about the petition filings with DPU on issues that could help move the proposed Kinder Morgan/TGP NED pipeline project forward for approval by FERC. Write letters to the editor.  Talk with your friends and neighbors.
  • Sign the petition to stop tariff –
  • Join with Stop the Pipeline groups to work on stopping the unneeded project.
  • Also contact officials asking for good legislation in the state including support for more renewables, conservation, efficiency, lifting the cap on solar projects, and supporting a better energy policy.

Distributed by No. Quabbin Pipeline Action ( with assistance from NoFrackedGasinMass (

click to download: DPU Info Sheet

click to download: DPU Hearing info





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