Apr 8, 2015
Hi Tim, Thank you for submitting your proposal! Fixing leaky gas lines is a great idea and an important undertaking. I wanted to share some background resources with you on efforts that have been taken along this line to date, which can be found here: http://www.heetma.org/squeaky-leak/ and http://www.somervillema.gov/news/city-utility-companies-address-non-hazardous-gas-leaks. How does your proposal expand or build upon these prior efforts? Also, can you add some more depth to your proposal by completing the unanswered questions and adding some details on ballpark cost savings? Feel free to make assumptions, just be sure to list them in your text. Thanks and I look forward to reading your revised proposal! Jamie
Apr 10, 2015
I had not heard about HEET, that's great! I knew about the work of Nathan Phillips at BU who has personally mapped out and reported leaks, which is what inspired me to post this proposal. But my information was a couple years old and it sounds like this is already under way!
Apr 22, 2015
Well I am glad you suggested it anyway, just in case! Thanks for your thoughts and for participating in the contest!
Apr 23, 2015
Hey, this is Audrey, the president of HEET. I'd like to point out that HEET's work showed the intensity of the problem, but didn't in any way solve it. We found over 5 natural gas leaks on average per linear mile of street. This is worse than any other city I know of. The cummulative emissions are more damaging to the climate than all vehicle miles travelled in the city. The city can take a variety of easy actions to reduce the leakage locally and can pass a resolution to support either of the state bills currently at the state house. If either bill got passed it would reduce the problem not only for Somerville but for the whole state. The actions the city could take are: 1. Request an updated leak map every six months from the Dept. of Public Utilities through Massachusetts’ recent natural gas leak bill13 (June 2014). A sample letter for this is attached at the end of this report. 2. Overlay a GIS map of city trees with the leak map to pinpoint trees that are being killed or damaged, then work with the utilities to repair the leaks that are suffocating trees. 3. Use the leak map to prioritize the repaving of streets that have more leaks. 4. Create a five-year plan of street repaving and share it with the utilities. Strongly encourage them to replace all the pipes just before the streets are repaired. Working in phase with street repair is the least expensive solution for the ratepayer and taxpayer and least disruptive for nearby residents. 5. Inform the utilities that you will check future leak maps to make sure recently repaved roads are free of leaks. Explain you will make public information about any remaining leaks to residents and to the Attorney General. 6. Routinely check tree pits for methane in the soil before planting. Purchase a gas & oxygen meter and bang bar (cost @ $1,500) to check the soil in tree pits. If there is methane in the soil, work with the utility to get the leak fixed so the tree isn’t suffocated. For more reading about the problem, look at http://www.heetma.org/squeaky-leak/squeaky-leak-maps-somerville/ http://www.seas.harvard.edu/news/2015/01/boston-s-natural-gas-infrastructure-releases-high-levels-of-heat-trapping-methane
May 13, 2015
Hi Audrey, the HEET Report on gas leaks in Somerville and Cambridge is such a great resource. Could you please clarify any pending legislation on the topic? I understand that the city is currently waiting for the DPU to pass along leak information from the utilities. I'm not sure why they can't be released to DPU and the cities at the same time, do you? Any suggestions on organizations that could help the city in its efforts would be great - perhaps Groundwork Somerville could look at trees. Not sure that Somerville has an arborist - I know that Cambridge does. Thanks again for your great contributions. Best regards, Andrea Ranger
May 14, 2015
Andrea - Thanks for your comment about the HEET report. There are 2 potential bills on the subject currently that I know of. H2870/S1768 would require gas utilities, not ratepayers, to pay for the cost of the wasted gas. This would incentivize the utilities to repair the largest leaks to save money. H2871/S1767 would require utilities to repair all leaks (not just the potentially explosive ones) whenever cities open up streets for repair. Both bills need support. The utilities have reported to the DPU the location and grade of the leaks in their territory. I've mapped these for Somerville and for 160 other towns across Mass. The maps are dynamic so you can zoom in to your home or your kids' school. We will soon make them public. Earthwatch is looking at tree damage in Cambridge. Contact me separately if you want to discuss this. Somerville should buy some equipment to test tree pits for natural gas so they don't plant the trees in poisoned soil. I don't know if the city has or not yet. Happy to offer more advice. HEET will be happy to consult more with the city or with any other city on this issue (HEET dot Cambridge at gmail dot com). Audrey