WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
There are about 16,000 gas leaks in our state.
Every day, gas leaks from old, rusty pipes under our streets and sidewalks, near our homes and our children’s schools, playgrounds, and libraries.
The utilities own the system, but they can’t—or won’t—maintain it unless we hold them to it.
WHY DO GAS LEAKS MATTER?
Gas leaks speed up climate change.
Leaked gas is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas that
- is 86 times more damaging than CO2 in its first 20 years in the atmosphere.
- makes up 10% of the greenhouse gas emissions in our state.
- cancels out all of our efficiency, conservation, and success.
Gas leaks cause explosions.
In Massachusetts alone, there have been explosions in Dorchester, Springfield, Winthrop, Somerset, Hyde Park, and Waltham.
Gas leaks harm our health.
We breathe in the leaking methane and whatever chemicals are in the gas.
We know that methane is a precursor to ground level ozone, making asthma and other respiratory illnesses worse.
Gas leaks cost us money.
Utilities add cost of the lost gas into the price we pay every month on our bills.
In the greater Boston area, we’re all paying $90 million every year in leaked gas!
Gas leaks kill our trees.
Methane in the soil takes the place of the oxygen that trees need, suffocating them and making them sick.
We need those trees for shade and clean air. We pay to replace them when they die.
Gas leaks in Boston, MA.
WHAT CAN WE DO ABOUT IT?
Call your legislators to support the statewide gas leaks bill
Mothers Out Front and our allies are supporting H.2683/S.1845: “An Act Relative to Protecting Consumers of Gas and Electricity from Paying for Leaked and Unaccounted for Gas.”
Nicknamed the consumer cost protection bill, it passes the cost of leaking gas from our bills to the utilities over a period of time. The more leaks they fix now, the less they pay later. The more methane stays in the pipes, the more everyone wins.
Texas, Pennsylvania, and 10 other states have passed similar bills and have seen a big impact in getting leaks fixed.
Both House and Senate versions are in the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy (TUE) chaired by Sen. Barrett and Rep. Golden.
There’s also a gas leaks bills regarding worker safety that we’ll support in partnership with unions.
Fix the biggest leaks first
We can get towns and cities across the state to focus on fixing the leaks that are gushing the most gas. According to a 2016 study by Boston University, 7% of Boston area leaks are gushing 50% of the methane escaping into our air and soil. If we can find these “super-emitters,” we can encourage utilities to fix them. Our allies have assembled a coalition of the three largest utilities in MA and independent researchers to identify the best way to find and fix these large volume leaks.
Advocate for better gas leaks rules
We can also put pressure on the Department of Public Utilities and the Department of Environmental Protection to work with scientists on how to measure how much gas is leaking and to use methods based on local, real numbers. Current estimates of leaked methane in MA come from national studies and the utilities themselves. This information is not readily available or verifiable. We need to push for accurate measurement and fact-based rules.
Advocate for better local gas leak repair
We can work with our local officials to make sure that the leakiest pipes are first in line for repair.
Help your Department of Public Works better communicate and coordinate with your gas company. FixOurPipes.org has lists of solutions for towns and utilities to work together effectively, including these best practices.
Mothers Out Front and our allies worked with Boston City Councilors to pass a Gas Leaks Ordinance that will speed up leak repair and pipe replacement. Click HERE for a summary of the Boston Gas Leak Ordinance.
Our local teams are:
- Identifying leaks in our communities.
- Informing and engaging our friends and neighbors in creative ways.
- Hosting forums about gas leaks to educate local officials and communities.
- Recruiting the support of local leaders: DPW commissioners, fire chiefs, public health officers, tree wardens, etc.
- Calling on our legislators to pass the statewide gas leaks bill.
Our current allies: HEET, Sierra Club, Clean Water Action, Boston Climate Action Network, Conservation Law Foundation, Gas Safety USA, Emerald Necklace Conservancy, Brookline GreenSpace Alliance, Boston University Professor Nathan Phillips, Community Labor United, Climate Action Now, Arise Springfield, Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, Friends of the Public Gardens.
LATEST NEWS ON GAS LEAKS ACTIONS:
In December, Mayor Marty Walsh signed the Boston Gas Leak Ordinance sponsored by City Councilor Matt O’Malley. The ordinance is a common sense solution to improve coordination with gas companies, speeding up the repair and replacement of leaky pipes. Click HERE for a summary of the Boston Gas Leak Ordinance.
In January, the three largest utilities in MA agreed to join our Super-emitter Coalition and conduct pilot studies to identify the best methods to find the biggest leaks. We appreciate this gesture of solidarity and commitment of resources as we work together to ensure a livable climate for our children.
WHAT IS THE SUPER EMITTER PILOT STUDY?
Dr. Hendrick and Dr. Phillips of Boston University recently published work showing that not only are the leaks in gas pipelines under our streets not all the same size, but just 7% are gushing 50% of the total methane that’s leaking! We can quickly cut in half our methane emissions from the pipes under our streets by targeting those largest leaks.
- WHAT IS INVOLVED? Researchers will study multiple ways to identify leaks that we think are the largest. Gas companies will prioritize those leaks for repair and excavate them so the scientists can measure the volume of emissions. This will allow us to confirm whether the leaks are actually big ones and which method is most efficient at finding the biggest.
- WHO? Mothers Out Front is working with Columbia Gas, Eversource, National Grid, Audrey Schulman of HEET, Professor Nathan Phillips of Boston University, Bob Ackley of Gas Safety USA, and other allies to get this important work accomplished quickly and efficiently.
- WHEN? We are conducting research this Spring and looking forward to sharing our results in the Fall of 2017.
Stay tuned as we move forward together to cut methane emissions in half!
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
- Share this fact sheet with your friends and neighbors!
- Find a map of gas leaks your town or city.
- Comment about gas leaks on social media, using our hashtag #FixBigGasLeaks.
- Call your gas company immediately if you smell a gas leak.
- Sign up for action alerts to show up at an event or call your legislators.
- Join your local Mothers Out Front team in taking action.
EVER WONDER WHAT A LEAK LOOKS LIKE?
If #methane were purple or even visible like water, gas companies would be quick to fix them. Because we can’t see the gas, we haven’t known that it has been spewing into the atmosphere for years. The average age of a Boston gas leak is 16 years!
One clever group joined one of our gas leak tagging events dressed as Big (orange) Leaks to make leaks visible.
Photos by Jeannette Hermann and Pam Steele
HOW ARE GAS LEAKS CONNECTED TO NEW PIPELINES?
Gas leaks highlight many reasons why we don’t want and don’t need new pipelines.
Gas leaks show that natural gas is not a clean or bridge fuel as utility companies would like us to believe. They cost us money, harm our health, kill trees, and are a major contributor to climate change.
The higher pressure of new pipelines will increase pressure across the system. More pressure means more and bigger leaks.
Gas leaks all the way from where it is fracked from the ground to our homes. More pipelines mean more methane in our air and soil.
The money we would pay for new pipelines and the money now spent on leaked gas could—and should—be invested in clean, renewable energy.
The amount of gas in the new pipelines is much more than we need. Most of it would be exported, so we would pay for new pipelines and suffer the consequences of leaking methane while the utilities make a profit.
We can manage without more gas. The pipelines are being built to cover peak demand times of only hours every year. The Attorney General’s report shows we can reduce and manage demand with conservation and efficiency. We don’t need new pipelines!
To find out more about our overall Massachusetts Campaign, click here!
Jamaica Plain team tabling at Wake up the Earth Fest. Cambridge Team flagging gas leaks!
Time to turn page on natural gas: Debunking the Access Northeast letter to policymakers, By Eugenia Gibbons
Many of Boston’s leaks are bigger and more dangerous than the utilities are telling us: http://insideclimatenews.org/news/30032016/boston-natural-gas-pipelines-leaking-methane-climate-change-explosion
The problem with natural gas in Massachusetts:
What’s wrong with methane?
Massachusetts Gas Leaks: Not a Pipe's Dream