In March 2015, Massachusetts’ utilities were required to file a report with the state identifying natural gas leaks across the state. Some of these leaks have existed for decades, as the utilities are required to fix only leaks that are considered explosive.
In Salem, National Grid originally identified 92 active gas leaks. As of 2016, National Grid reports 62 leaks still pouring methane into our environment. SAFE, by contrast, identified over 200 leaks during its own survey in the summer of 2016.
Gas leaks have been a problem for decades. The oldest leak in our city was reported in 1992. Even if these leaks are not an imminent danger to the community, they cause serious health and environmental hazards, including:
- Killing trees by suffocating their roots
- Increasing rates of asthma and other respiratory disorders
- Releasing methane, an extreme potent green house gas, into the atmosphere
Salem City Councilor Steve Dibble has proposed a revision to the City’s ordinance on managing and eliminating natural gas leaks that would provide for better coordination between National Grid and the City to reduce the cost of repairs and protect the health of local residents.
In addition, the utilities currently have little incentive to repair leaks, because the cost of leaked gas is passed on to consumers. In 2016, legislation to end this practice failed, but it is back on the Massachusetts legislature’s agenda for 2017-18.