Estimating natural-gas leaks is not the solution
Every day natural gas spews from our aging and corroding pipeline infrastructure into the air we and our children breathe.
The utilities report 1,462 gas leaks in Boston and more than 20,000 statewide. Natural gas is 95-percent methane, a far more potent greenhouse gas than CO2. Among other environmental insults, methane kills trees and aggravates asthma.
Responding to public pressure that leaks be fixed more aggressively than they currently are, the state has asked for new regulations to repair those leaks that are “environmentally significant.” This is an opportunity to get the job done, and to get it done right.
But regulations recently proposed by the Departments of Environmental Protection (DEP) and Public Utilities (DPU) do not address the issue reliably: they recommend estimating the emissions from gas leaks. In a Harvard/Boston University study, Kathryn McKain measured the level of natural gas in the atmosphere over Greater Boston and found it to be more than eight times the amount the DEP estimated for the same year.
Estimates are not good enough. Emissions (not just from large environmentally significant leaks but from all leaked gas) need to be measured using the best available methods if we are to have confidence in the results and see that progress is being made. As customers, we pay for all leaked gas. As a society, we pay for the cost to public health and the environment. And, as parents, we pay keen attention for the sake of our children.