Policy Options for Reducing Natural Gas Leaks in Massachusetts
Chameides, Dean William
Repository Usage Stats
Massachusetts’ natural gas distribution systems – pipes delivering gas for fuel into homes and businesses – are leaking large quantities of gas due to aging and crumbling infrastructure – primarily pipes made of the outdated materials cast iron and unprotected steel. This is problematic in several ways. First, public safety is at risk from explosions and fires from the leaked gas; second, uncombusted methane in natural gas is a more potent global warming gas than carbon dioxide – contributing to climate change; and third, ratepayers bear the cost of the lost gas, as well as the costs of publicly- and privately-owned trees and shrubs that are harmed by soil health damage near the leaks. This master’s project explores actions being taken or considered in Massachusetts and in states with similar gas infrastructure to reduce natural gas leaks, and includes recommendations to achieve further reductions. A comparative case study approach was used to examine Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, New York, and federal policy activity. Methods for the case studies included examination of publicly-available materials as well as interviews with individuals from different areas of expertise or leadership with respect to gas distribution systems. Findings indicate that there is no single, simple, or inexpensive solution to eliminating gas leaks from old, leak-prone infrastructure, but that a combination of approaches from the multiple states studied may lead to reductions in gas loss if implemented in Massachusetts. Recommendations include: adoption of consistent measurement and reporting criteria for lost gas from all utilities as modeled by Pennsylvania’s 2013 regulations revisions; creation or expansion of incentives for utilities to reduce leakage such as New York’s innovative benchmark and profit incentive for utilities alongside the federally proposed state revolving loan fund model for capital investments in system upgrade costs; and incorporation of the value of avoided environmental damage into all cost benefit analyses for aging pipeline repair and replacement. Finally, caution is needed in any new regulation or practice adopted to be assured that repair and replacement investments are served, and funding not redirected for additional natural gas capacity, keeping in mind that overreliance on any single fuel could prove a foolish gamble.
CitationSmith, Becky (2014). Policy Options for Reducing Natural Gas Leaks in Massachusetts. Master's project, Duke University. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10161/8584.
More InfoShow full item record
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License.
Rights for Collection: Nicholas School of the Environment