There are thousands of gas leaks in Boston. Thousands. The leaks are obviously dangerous, and also consumers pay more due to millions worth of gas escaping into the air. An ordinance passed by the Boston City Council and authored by Jamaica Plain's City Councilor Matt O'Malley is aimed at eliminating natural gas leaks and improve the leak repair system.
The council approved the ordinance 12-1 at its Wednesday meeting and now Mayor Martin J. Walsh has to sign it to become law.
“I am thrilled at the passage of the Gas Leaks ordinance,” said O’Malley, who serves as the chair of the City Council’s Committee on Environment & Sustainability. “Thanks to the hard work and commitment of a passionate group of environmental allies, Boston now has a better way to address harmful gas leaks which are in virtually every Boston neighborhood. It’s more important than ever for the city’s residents to work together to reverse the effects of climate change and protect our city, our country and our planet for generations to come.”
The ordinance creates a new mechanism for the city to deal with gas leaks and will improve the management of Boston's infrastructure by coordinating maintenance, repair, upgrades, replacement with gas companies by notifying the gas company that the street is open.
It will also allow the city to withhold permits for non-compliance; allow utility companies to survey the open area for natural gas leaks and allow them to repair or replace any aging, leak-prone or natural gas infrastructure in public ways; reduce the cost of gas for consumers while ensuring the further safety and health of people as gas leaks have been proven dangerous to people and the environment. The ordinance also gives the city the authority to recoup costs from utility companies for the destruction of trees and shrubbery, which often happens from gas leaks.
Statistically speaking, the amount of leaks and the amount of money that just goes into the air and environment is staggering. While the estimated number of natural gas leaks varies, Clean Water Action estimates there are close to 4,400 in Boston. A 2015 Harvard-led study estimated that each year “15 billion cubic feet of natural gas, worth some $90 million escapes the Boston region’s delivery system.” And that cost is then passed onto the consumer. And if you're wondering, that's enough gas to heat as many as 200,000 homes.
O'Malley has worked on the ordinance for two years after being approached by a group of residents called Mothers Out Front, who are working to raise awareness of gas leaks and proposed potential solutions in partnership with groups including Clean Water Action, the Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, Boston Climate Action Network and HEET.