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Marblehead rep aims to regulate gas leaks

The financial, environmental and human costs associated with natural gas leaks in the state are staggering, according to state Rep. Lori Ehrlich, D-Marblehead.Ehrlich has filed several new pieces of legislation that if passed would apply stringent anti-leak regulations to the state’s aging natural gas infrastructure.Ehrlich said there are approximately 25,000 known natural gas leaks in the state that are emitting more than 8 billion cubic feet of natural gas or methane each year.”Some of these leaks date back 25 years,” Ehrlich said. “At residential rates, the amount of natural gas lost to leaks by National Grid in Massachusetts alone is almost $20 million a year.”Ehrlich added the gas leaks are taking a toll on the environment as well. She said recent studies indicate that leaking gas is killing trees by depriving them of oxygen and taxpayers are spending millions of dollars to replace the trees being killed off by the leaks.Ehrlich said reducing the leaks would also decrease the need for LNG tankers in Boston Harbor.”Repairing the gas leak backlog for the entire state would preserve billions of cubic feet (of natural gas),” she said. “It would reduce the need for LNG tankers from foreign lands entering the harbor by more than 25 percent.”Ehrlich pointed out the system that is currently in place to evaluate the leaks is strictly voluntary. The bills she filed last week with the support of House leaders would establish a new system of classifying all leaks and force utilities to fix ignored leaks within a set time period.”Recent natural gas explosions and fatalities have shown that it’s a clear public safety hazard,” she said. “Leaks also cause extensive damage to public and private property.”Ehrlich, who represents Marblehead, Swampscott and a portion of Lynn, said the new requirements in the bill would cost an estimated $90 million.

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