Methane leaks from aging gas distribution pipes are a major source of greenhouse gas emissions in Massachusetts. In Boston, methane leaks are the largest driver of climate change in the city’s footprint – more than all vehicle emissions. The 2014 law, An Act Relative to Natural Gas Leaks, which BCAN helped to pass, took a first step in addressing this problem by establishing a system to grade leaks on safety, requiring utilities to repair the most dangerous gas leaks, and mandating their reporting of the locations of known gas leaks. However, the remaining leaks continue to be a major contributor to climate change, posing challenges to the Commonwealth’s ability to meet emissions reduction targets.
With our partners at Clean Water Action, BCAN convened a coalition of organizations including the Metropolitan Area Planning Council, Home Energy Efficiency Team, Sierra Club, Conservation Law Foundation, and Mothers Out Front to further address the gas leaks crisis. BostonCAN engaged hundreds of Boston residents and worked with coalition members to raise public awareness of Boston’s leaky, century-old natural gas pipelines via:
- Tabling at community events; conducting workshops and presentations with community organizations; and performing our Cantastoria, a 5 minute popularized street theatre piece that made the case for energy efficiency and renewables. BCAN also led a “natural gas safari,” a “gas leaks brigade,” a TV news show, and a forum that drew city officials along with the public;
- Creating neighborhood maps of gas leaks with Boston University researchers;
- Mobilizing over 150 people to attend a City Council hearing on Boston’s gas leaks.
- Inserting pipeline repair language in Boston’s next three-year Climate Action Plan
- Arranging community testimony and statements from the Boston Student Advisory Council, Codman Square NDC, and Project RIGHT that reframed gas leaks as an economic and social justice issue;
- Testifying on city panels in City and State hearings on the connection between gas leaks, energy efficiency, and alternatives to pipelines, as well as the health impacts of leak exposure in neighborhoods disproportionately burdened by asthma.
The Gas Leaks Campaign was an enormous success: on December 14, 2016, the Boston City Council passed a Gas Leaks Ordinance to speed up gas leak repairs, better coordinate infrastructure repairs, and increase safety for workers and residents. This new ordinance was the result of a multi-year, multi-organization campaign and thousands of hours of work by BCAN volunteers, and will:
- Speed up gas leak repairs.
- Improve coordination between the City and National Grid.
- Require National Grid to give the City more info about leaks and pipes.
- Make sure leaks are repaired and pipes replaced correctly.
- Increase safety for gas workers and the public.
- Require contractors to follow the Boston Resident Jobs Policy.