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A year ago we were reading about gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley that resulted in a fatality, injuries, property damage, displacement of tens of thousands of people for months, not to mention over a billion dollars in costs.

On the anniversary of these catastrophic explosions a new report, Rolling the Dice: Assessment of Gas System Safety in Massachusetts, was released.  Wellesley’s Regina LaRocque, MD, MPH contributed to the report, published by the Gas Leaks Allies Coalition. The report identifies fundamental flaws in the gas distribution system in towns such as Wellesley that can lead directly to unsafe situations while recommending feasible, cost-effective, short-term actions to improve public safety. The report proposes a strategy to triage the gas distribution system and transition to a new way to heat homes and businesses. It sends an urgent message to legislators, the executive branch, municipalities, and gas companies to take action now.  

This is important as Wellesley has more than 260 gas leaks and endured two gas “blowdowns”  just this past August. Fortunately, there were no homes destroyed nor fires started, this time, but gas was vented from an interstate pipeline that runs along the eastern edge of town. Breathing air polluted with the components of natural gas is hazardous to human health. In addition, its methane is at least 80 times more potent as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, it kills trees, and the leaks are expensive – Wellesley customers pay for lost gas in their gas bills. 

Gas leaks and blowouts will continue in Wellesley until significant changes are made. To greatly enhance public safety in the near term and in the future, Sustainable Wellesley is urging residents to learn more about the FUTURE Act H.2849/S.1940 which addresses the safety of the gas system, increases state oversight, and creates a pathway for utilities to deliver reliable, clean energy by investing now in heat pumps, thermal storage, solar thermal, or geothermal district energy systems.

Then, contact your legislators to share your concerns:

Rep. Alice Peisch, Alice.Peisch@mahouse.gov, (617) 722-2070

Senator Becca Rausch, Becca.Rausch@masenate.gov, (617) 722-1555

Senator Cynthia Creem, Cynthia.Creem@masenate.gov, (617) 722-1639


Finally, consider reaching out to Wellesley town officials to encourage them to continue their efforts in a multi-town initiative aiming to open a dialogue with National Grid on fixing gas leaks – particularly the large volume leaks. The multi-town initiative includes representatives from more than 20 cities and towns, as well as the Gas Leaks Allies, Metropolitan Area Planning Council, and Mothers Out Front.

 

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Sustainable Wellesley members gathered in front of the Wellesley Community Center holding signs, and wearing safety vests and tape measures of the sort used by utility crews to draw attention to National Grid’s lack of action on gas leaks. The community center is located near a major leak that has been known to the gas company since 2015.

Last week, Sustainable Wellesley called on National Grid to fix the dozens of persistent gas leaks in Wellesley. The leaks emit vast amounts of methane, which is a dangerous and highly potent greenhouse gas that is contributing to global warming.

Sustainable Wellesley President Quentin Prideaux said, “We first started looking at gas leaks in Wellesley in 2015 when there were 197 leaks reported by National Grid — now there are 261. The leaks are actually getting worse and we need National Grid to step up to protect our climate, our safety, and our health.”

The Sustainable Wellesley action was part of a larger effort across the Boston metropolitan area led by Mothers Out Front, the Gas Leaks Allies, and other environmental groups frustrated by the lack of progress on gas leaks. In Boston, more than 100 protesters gathered on Cambridge Street near a 13-year old leak. Activists are particularly concerned that National Grid has backed away from its previous commitment to identify and repair the largest volume leaks, sometimes called “super-emitters.” These large volume leaks make up only about 7 percent of the more than 16,000 leaks in the state but they emit roughly 50 percent of the methane. The other large gas companies — Eversource and Columbia Gas — have already begun using the accepted method for identifying and repairing these leaks, while National Grid has said it will not do so until next year.

Phyllis Theermann
Image courtesy of Mothers Out Front

Image courtesy of Mothers Out Front

Gas Leaks Forum: Tuesday, May 17th at 7pm at the Cary Memorial Building in Lexington

There are more than 20,000 gas leaks in Massachusetts (121 in Gas Leaks Wellesley) creating a safety, health, and environmental hazard that affects our communities and our climate. Methane is an even more potent greenhouse gas than carbon. What needs to be done to address these dangerous and expensive methane leaks? Discussion will include Professor Nathan Phillips (Boston University), Joe Newman (Director of Governmental Affairs, National Grid), Ed Woll (Sierra Club of MA). Sponsored by Lexington Board of Selectmen, Sen. Mike Barrett, Sen. Ken Donnelly, Rep. Jay Kaufman, and Mothers Out Front.

Please click Here for flyer.