While the 2018 legislative cycle was disappointing in many ways, we did have an important win on LUAF. What’s LUAF, you ask? “Lost and Unaccounted for Gas!”. The Gas Leaks Allies succeeded in getting our LUAF language into the clean energy omnibus bill that passed in August.
The new language requires the utilities to report on LUAF each year in a clearer and more uniform way, allowing us to tailor our gas leaks strategies more effectively. Until now, utilities’ LUAF numbers have been fuzzy, including a mish-mash of actual leaks, metering errors, gas the utilities use for their own operations, etc. Going forward, these categories must be separately reported in a standardized way, and even actual leaks must be further broken down – for example, how much lost gas comes from deteriorating pipes, versus pipes hit accidentally during construction, or leaking compressor stations. Just like the 2014 law that required the utilities to publicly report leak numbers and locations for the first time, this new law will give us critically-needed information to use in our work.
A second part of the new legislation allows utilities to apply to the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) for waivers to develop innovative approaches to reducing LUAF, with the dual goals of reducing greenhouse gas emissions and lowering costs to consumers. The utilities had expressed frustration with regulatory constraints that limited their ability to experiment with creative and proactive approaches to fixing leaks. We hope that both the DPU and the utilities will be bold in their interpretation of what their new freedom allows them to do, trying truly innovative new approaches to the gas leaks problem and creating solutions that work for all of us.
Our success in passing this legislation came only after prior efforts had failed. We learned from our experience, and worked this time round to be flexible in responding to people’s concerns, comprehensive in our outreach, and persistent in our efforts to keep pushing forward! Also, political insiders tell us that the simple fact that nobody opposed our legislation was essential to its success -- and that is a direct result of our collaboration with the utilities on its details.