Sen. Edward J. Markey of Massachusetts released a report on Aug. 1 on the state of gas distribution pipeline leaks in that state, using it as a case study for the country as a whole. The report, prepared by congressional staff, found that $1.5 billion worth of natural gas was lost in Massachusetts between 2000-2011 and blamed leaky distribution pipelines for most of the loss.
Extrapolating from the Massachusetts data, the report estimated nationwide costs at $20 billion from 2000-2011 for gas that was unaccounted for.
“Consumers are already paying expensive energy bills. They shouldn’t have to pay for billions of dollars in fuel that never even makes it to their homes,” said Senator Markey, from a press release on the report. “Every leaky pipeline is like a hole in consumers’ pockets. We need to speed up the replacement of old natural gas infrastructure to reduce accidents, pollution, and waste.”
Markey blamed pipeline infrastructure in bad condition for the losses and referenced the infrastructure replacement programs already in place in Massachusetts and thirty-two other states, calling for their expansion to allow companies to recover costs for pipeline replacement programs, especially replacing cast iron and bare steel pipe. He said companies might not take advantage of the programs, however, since they were passing on the cost of lost gas to consumers.
AGA President and CEO Dave McCurdy responded to the report with a statement. “According to data from the Energy Information Administration and the Environmental Protection Agency, less than 1.5 percent of natural gas is emitted as it travels from where it is produced to your home. Natural gas utilities are committed to lowering this number even further by continually upgrading and modernizing the natural gas pipeline network. In the past decade, natural gas utilities have installed modern plastic lines at a rate of 30,000 miles per year, connecting new customers or replacing older pipeline infrastructure with more cutting-edge pipeline technology.”
McCurdy’s statement continued, “The top priority for natural gas utilities is safety and according to the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, our domestic abundance of clean natural gas is delivered via the safest energy delivery system in the nation. With natural gas prices at historic lows, America’s natural gas utilities are using this opportunity to advance upgrades to our nation’s 2.4 million miles of natural gas pipelines, and they are working with local regulators to develop innovative rate models for making these capital investments possible.”
“If we plug some of the regulatory and consumer protection holes, we’ll get more of these money-wasting leaks plugged as well,” said Senator Markey. “Natural gas is too valuable of a domestic resource to just allow it to float away, and it is too volatile a gas to allow these risks to continue.”
Markey announced that he is drafting federal legislation to encourage speeding up cost-recovery programs for companies. The full report is attached below.