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December 14th, 2007:

Are Trees Being Killed by Utility Gas Leaks?

American Energy Coalition - December 14th, 2007

A Massachusetts group is working to prevent the destruction of shade trees caused by underground gas leaks.

The Massachusetts Public Shade Tree Trust has tested the soil around hundreds of dead or dying shade trees and detected leaking gas, which it claims is killing the trees. The group's efforts have been covered by numerous news organizations, including the Boston Globe, the Associated Press and WBZ TV.

Here is an excerpt from an Associated Press account from March 2007:

"Minor natural gas leaks that are no threat to people can still cause harm: They can kill public shade trees by choking off the oxygen at their roots.

"Bob Ackley, who has spent 25 years testing natural gas lines for leaks, says it's happening to thousands of trees around the state, and gas companies are slow to fix it.

"So Ackley and attorney Jan Schlichtmann, famous for fighting for eight families in a groundwater contamination case portrayed in the John Travolta movie 'A Civil Action,' set up the Massachusetts Public Shade Tree Trust to help communities stop the leaks and recover their costs.

" 'We can't be losing these trees,' Ackley said. 'Every tree that we lose that's 60, 70, 80 years old, it's going to take 60, 70 years to replace.'

Here is an excerpt from the Boston Globe from December 2007:

"When Quincy residents complained that they smelled gas near their homes, no one took much notice. But when the smells were traced to areas with dying trees, it was clear to them that, as City Councilor Kevin Coughlin put it, 'there's something going on here.'

"Just what is going on is a matter of disagreement.

"Municipal officials in Quincy and other local communities fear that leaks in underground gas lines are killing trees - including shade trees that have stood for decades - by displacing oxygen in the soil.

"But gas companies are reluctant to assume responsibility, stating that there is no proven connection between low-level leaks and the death of trees."

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