On April 17 a natural gas explosion destroyed a home in Dorchester, injuring a dozen people, two of them seriously. While we don’t know for certain that the gas leak came from an old pipe, we do know that National Grid had been called to the residence numerous times before to respond to the odor of leaking gas. Tragic explosions have occurred in recent years in Springfield, Gloucester, Fitchburg, Somerset, and Winthrop, in addition to Dorchester!
Natural gas leaks are also dangerous to our atmosphere. Natural gas is composed of methane, which is 34 times more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide. According to Conservation Law Foundation, in Massachusetts “1,725 million cubic feet is lost through leaks each year — more than the 1,097 cubic feet saved through efficiency gains” through Mass Save.
Natural gas leaks are as costly as they are dangerous. Methane build up in the soil around these leaking pipes also is killing our trees at the roots. In Brookline alone, tree damage is estimated at $1,000,000. The cost for the trees is paid for the taxpayers. We also pay for the lost gas, even though it never gets to our homes. The Department of Public Utilities permits gas utilities to charge ratepayers for all the gas they put into the pipelines, not what’s actually delivered to our homes. CLF estimates that “Massachusetts ratepayers have paid over $1.5 billion for natural gas that never made it to their homes.”
Boston’s Climate Action Plan, last updated 3 years ago, does not include any recognition of leaking gas pipes as part of the City’s greenhouse gas inventory. Join BostonCAN on May 15th for a Gas Leaks Meet-Up to call on the City to count the leaks and advocate for replacing the old cast iron pipes in a prompt and systematic manner.