Written on: March 10, 2017

Environmental Study: Leaking Gas Pipelines Costing State Consumers Millions, Adding Air Pollution

Leaky natural gas pipelines are costing Connecticut consumers millions of dollars a year, according to a new study reported recently by the Hartford Courant. In Hartford alone, natural gas pipes leak an estimated 43,000 cubic feet of gas every day.

“The research, commissioned by the Sierra Club of Connecticut, argues that gas leaks are not only costing ratepayers but also add to air pollution that is a major factor in global warming,” the article states.

The study’s authors maintain that leaking pipes are a significant problem. “In a one-month period, we found about 700 leaks in Hartford,” Gale Ridge, a scientist who worked on the study, told the Courant. Ridge said that although gas leaks are supposed to be reported to the state Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, that agency listed only 139 gas leaks for all of last year in Hartford.

Environmental groups that include the Sierra Club have been opposing efforts to build multibillion-dollar pipelines to bring more natural gas into Connecticut and New England.

Under a 2014 state law, gas companies estimate the amount of “lost and unaccounted for gas” that escapes from their pipelines, and then bill customers for the cost of the lost fuel. “Unfortunately, this practice discourages repair of leaks because companies are rewarded financially for leaking,” according to the report’s authors.

“Methane is a major contributor to the greenhouse gases that most scientific research has linked to climate change,” the Courant wrote. “Natural gas is 97 percent methane, and environmental critics of the natural gas industry have repeatedly warned that pipelines and the ‘fracking’ of wells that produce the gas are major contributors to air pollution.”

“The energy giants, UI and Eversource, who own all the local gas distribution companies in the state, get paid for leaking methane, making our electricity more expensive and our bills higher, while at the same time causing climate change from the emissions,” said Martha Klein, chair of the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club.