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Bill Seeks to Clamp Down on Methane Leaks

Senate Bill 346 would require that repairs to leaking natural gas pipes be monitored and verified. (Lee Haywood (CC BY-SA 2.0)/Flickr)
Senate Bill 346 would require that repairs to leaking natural gas pipes be monitored and verified. (Lee Haywood (CC BY-SA 2.0)/Flickr)
May 7, 2018

HARTFORD, Conn. — A recent survey of Hartford streets found many more leaks in gas lines than utilities acknowledge - but a bill now in the state Senate would cut the losses.

Natural gas is 97 percent methane, a powerful greenhouse gas. It also contributes to smog that triggers asthma and other respiratory diseases.

The Public Utilities Regulatory Authority claims that it monitors and checks all leaks reported to it. But according to Martha Klein, chapter chair of the Connecticut Sierra Club, the two-month survey of Hartford streets using mobile leak detectors found six times the number of leaks reported in the city in an entire year.

"Over 300 metric tons of methane per year are wasted just in Hartford,” Klein said. “And so when you add up all the leaks of the whole state, you're talking about thousands of metric tons of methane or maybe tens of thousands."

Senate Bill 346, introduced by state Sen. Ted Kennedy (D-Branford), would reduce the maximum allowable leakage rate for natural gas from 3 percent to 1 percent.

Klein said the bill also would end the practice of self-monitoring repairs of reported leaks.

"Once there is a recognized leak, PURA investigates, opens a docket, and will follow through and make sure that these leaks are actually fixed,” she said. “That's not the way it's done now."

Klein pointed out that cutting down on the volume of gas escaping from leaky pipes would be a triple win for Connecticut and the planet.

"It saves the ratepayers money since we're the ones who pay for the leaking gas right now,” she said. “It saves our health since methane leaks are related to respiratory illness, cancers, dementia and birth defects. And of course, obviously, it saves the climate."

SB 346 has passed through the Joint Committee on the Environment but has not been scheduled for a vote by the full Senate.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - CT