WHAT’S THE PROBLEM?
There are about 20,000 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?
We can work with our local elected officials to make sure that the streets with the leakiest pipes are first in line for repair. Mothers Out Front and its allies worked with Boston City Councilors on a Gas Leaks Ordinance that will speed up leak repair and pipe replacement. If you live in a City outside of Boston, you can try to pass a similar Ordinance in your town. Click HERE for a summary of the Boston Gas Leak Ordinance.
We can get towns and cities across the state to focus on fixing the super-emitters—the leaks that are gushing the most gas. According to a March 2016 study by BU scientists, 7% of Boston area leaks emit 50% of the methane in our air and soil. If we can determine how to find these “super emitters,” we can push utilities to fix them. Our allies are currently designing a Super Emitter Pilot Study to identify the best way to find and fix these large volume leaks.
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 independent research. 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 local, reliable data.
Our local teams are:
- identifying leaks in our communities
- informing and engaging our friends and neighbors in creative ways
- holding forums about gas leaks to educate our elected officials and communities
- recruiting the support of local leaders: DPW commissioners, fire chiefs, public health officers, tree wardens, etc.
- calling on our representatives and senators to pass statewide legislation
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:
On Dec, 14th, The Boston City Council voted 12 to 1 to pass the Boston Gas Leak Ordinance sponsored by Councilor Matt O’Malley. The ordinance is a commonsense solution that will improve coordination of infrastructure repair with the utility companies and thereby speed up the repair and replacement of leaky pipes. Click HERE for a summary of the Boston Gas Leak Ordinance.
On Monday, Dec. 5th, Mothers Out Front met with Mr. William Akley, President, Eversource Gas Operations, along with Mr. Thomas Hart, Director of Gas Engineering, and Mr. Robert Buffone, Manager of Gas Engineering and we are very pleased to announce that Eversource Gas has committed to working together with us on our Super Emitter Pilot Study underway in Cambridge, MA!! We appreciate this gesture of solidarity and commitment of resources as together we all work 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 actually, just 7% of the leaks are leaking 50% of the total methane leaked! This means that despite our aging gas infrastructure, we have an opportunity to very quickly cut our leaked methane emissions from pipelines in half by targeting those largest leaks. BUT, we need to determine the best method for identifying those largest leaks - that is the question this study is asking.
- WHAT IS INVOLVED? BU Scientists and HEET will study multiple techniques and technologies to identify a group of leaks that we are hypothesizing are our largest leaks. Then the gas companies will be prioritizing those leaks for repair and excavating them so the scientists can measure volume coming off the exposed pipe. This will allow us to confirm whether the leaks are actually large volume than expected — and also which identification technique was most efficient at finding the biggest ones!
- WHO and WHEN? Mothers Out Front Cambridge is working together with Eversource Gas, Cambridge’s Vice Mayor Marc McGovern, DPW Commissioner Owen O’Riordan, Audrey Schulman of HEET, Professor Nathan Phillips of Boston University and other Gas Leaks Allies to get this important work accomplished quickly and efficiently. In fact, we intend to have the selection process completed before Spring 2017 and look forward to sharing and publishing our results before the end of 2017.
So, stay tuned as we move forward together to cut Cambridge’s gas pipeline methane emissions in half by the end of 2017!!!
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 utility company if you smell a strong gas leak.
- Sign up for action alerts to show up at an event or call your legislators: email email@example.com
- Join your local Mothers Out Front team in taking action.
EVER WONDER WHAT A LEAK LOOKS LIKE?
If #methane were purple or visible in any way, we probably would not have a leak issue because gas companies would be quick to fix them. But because we can’t see the gas, we have not known that it has been spewing into the atmosphere for years. The average age of a Boston gas leak is 16 years!
On December 10th, a clever group of Boston residents, joined our gas leak tagging event 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