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Ehrlich, utility at odds over gas main repairs

Natural gas suppliers and distributors believe pending legislation filed by State Rep. Lori Ehrlich (D-Marblehead) would not make the gas distribution any safer and could cost rate payers millions of dollars a year.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.The Northeast Gas Association represents the majority of natural gas distributors in the state and Thomas M. Kiley, who is the president and chief executive officer, said the proposed legislation Ehrlich filed is passed it would cost “hundreds of millions of dollars” and the cost would be passed along to ratepayers. He added safety is the top priority of the natural gas industry.National Grid Spokesman David Graves said the goal of the company are gas main replacement.?That is what is best in terms of long-term public safety and is our plan going forward,” he said. “We don’t want to just go out and do repairs on leaks that do not pose a threat to the public. Any leaks that pose a public danger are made safe immediately and there is a process by which those leaks are repaired.”Ehrlich said the financial, environmental and human costs associated with natural gas leaks in the state are staggering. She added the system that is currently in place to evaluate the leaks is strictly voluntary. The bills she put forth 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.Graves said National Grid has stepped up its gas main replacement with the support of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the majority of the leaks in the system are Grade 3 leaks.?This legislation addresses primarily Grade 3 leaks,” he said. “Grade 3 leaks are not a danger to public safety. Those leaks are monitored. The higher grade leaks (1 and 2) are dealt with much more quickly.”

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