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Efforts to Fix Natural-Gas Leaks Mean More Jobs

Natural gas pipelines leak, and workers are being hired to repair them. (V. Carter)
Natural gas pipelines leak, and workers are being hired to repair them. (V. Carter)
April 13, 2017

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- A new report shows that business is booming for those who work to stop leaks in natural gas pipelines across the country.

While cleaner air is good news for the environment, it might also be a boon to the job market, as these companies hire workers to perform methane mitigation. The report showed there are at least 60 mitigation companies working in 45 states, including Minnesota.

Marcy Lowe is the CEO of Datu Research, a group associated with Duke University that published the report. She explained why it's important to stop these leaks.

"Methane is a very powerful greenhouse gas. Actually, in the short term, it's much more powerful than carbon dioxide,” Lowe said. "So, it's very, very important to try to keep it out of the atmosphere."

Critics of methane recapture claim this type of service comes with too high a price tag for natural gas suppliers. But Lowe said the savings from preventing the loss of product to the atmosphere nearly always outweigh the cost of stopping the leaks.

According to the report, unmitigated leaks cost an estimated $1.3 billion in lost natural gas each year. And recapturing those leaks creates job opportunities. Particularly in states with methane regulations, Lowe said the mitigation industry has experienced up to 30 percent employment growth, across a broad range of demographics.

"We found that they were offering a range of jobs with different experience needed, starting with just out of high school to highly skilled engineers and Ph.Ds,” she said.

The report said the majority of methane mitigation firms are small businesses founded in the last six years, that have high upward mobility with salaries ranging from $27,000 $100,000 per year.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - MN