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January 8th, 2013:

Natural Gas Leaks: A Risky Business in Need of a Fix

American Energy Coalition - January 8th, 2013

Leaking natural gas pipelines are causing injury and damage and aggravating global climate change, and gas regulators and companies need invest in upgrading the natural gas infrastructure.

That is the message of an article posted on Huffington Post recently by John B. Kassel, President of the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF).

Kassel cites the November 2012 Springfield, Mass., gas explosion that ruined a city block as an example of the gas pipeline issue. "The pipelines that lie below our communities, always out of sight, suddenly came into focus. The explosion reminded us of the sobering reality that our streets are not always safe."

He discusses the widespread neglect of the natural gas infrastructure. "Despite smart investments in energy efficiency and new energy technologies in New England, when it comes to natural gas, whose infrastructure is among the oldest in the nation, we have been reluctant to prioritize investment in replacing and repairing the pipes and valves that we rely upon not only to heat and power our homes, but to keep us safe. When it comes to natural gas efficiency and investment, there is much more we can do - so much more.

"We need to improve safety, increase efficiency, and reduce the risk to communities and to our planet. It is my belief, as well as that of my colleagues here at CLF, that we can and should make our communities healthy and safe from the unnecessary risk of explosions from old and leaky pipelines."

He cites two reasons why this must be done. "It's vital because methane, the major component of natural gas, is 25 times more potent as a global-warming causing gas than CO2. In a year that has broken so many temperature records, and in an age when climate is showing the signs of human distortion, we are constantly reminded of the strain we are placing on our global ecosystem. It is a strain we need to urgently reduce.

"It is also vital to replace and fix pipes leaking natural gas because it is so combustible. Springfield reminded us of this fact. So, too, did the explosions that rocked San Bruno, Calif., in 2010, Allentown, Pa., in 2011, and Gloucester, Mass., in 2009, and most recently, Sissonville, W.V., to name only a few. These explosions are reminders of the serious care and attention that our natural gas infrastructure needs. If we fail to provide them with that care, we gamble with our safety, and with our lives, as this image from the San Bruno explosion vividly shows," Kassel wrote.

He goes on to quote his CLF colleague Shanna Cleveland, who authored the CLF report on natural gas, Into Thin Air: "The need for action is particularly acute in Massachusetts where over one-third of the system is considered 'leak-prone' - made up of cast iron or unprotected steel pipe." The leaks in Massachusetts are so significant that the gains by efficiency programs put in place by Massachusetts regulators are disappearing into thin air, the article states.

To read the Huffington Post article, click here.

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