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. /http://www.heetma.org/squeaky-leak/natural-gas-leaks-maps/.  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, http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2015/01/boston-s-natural-gas-infrastructure-releases-high-levels-of-heat-trapping-methane