New law to prevent disasters involving natural gas leak

Aims to prevent future leaks, deal with incidents quickly

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A new bill signed by Governor Deval Patrick will require Massachusetts utility companies to pay closer attention to natural gas leaks.

Two years after a gas explosion leveled one building and damaged many others, Governor Patrick signed a new legislation to prevent future disasters.

However, if you heat your home with natural gas, you can expect to pay an extra dollar or two in the near future as gas companies start replacing aging pipelines.

The bill signed into law on Monday is designed to expedite and better organize utility companies’ response to gas leaks.

It creates a three-tier classification system, so no matter where you live or who your gas company is, everyone in Massachusetts will now use the same terms to describe and classify a natural gas leak.

  • Grade 1 would represent the most serious level that needs immediate attention.
  • Grade 2 may pose a future risk and must be fixed within one year.
  • Grade 3 would mean the leak does not pose any danger to people or property at the time of detection.

22News spoke with one man who lost his dog when his house exploded in 2009. Wayne Sargent of Gloucester said, “I just wanted to see the bill signed, it’s important for everyone’s safety. There are thousands of gas leaks across the state, they’ve been documented, and I think this is a step to see that those are repaired so what happened to me doesn’t happen again.”

The law also encourages gas companies to replace century-old cast iron pipelines that are not well-protected.

William Wolmart of Springfield said, “They should replace all the pipes. You know, there are a lot of people that live in the area, around the area where it actually happened.”

For Columbia Gas, that’s a 20-year plan that could add one or two dollars to an average gas bill.
But it has some economic benefits.

Director of Communication Sheila Doiron said, “They are construction jobs, and they are engineering jobs. They are good jobs to last a generation.”

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