Spurring Gas Companies to Fix Their Leaking Pipes

Leaking gas pipes are a problem across Massachusetts, threatening our climate, costing us money, and putting our neighborhoods at risk. We need gas companies to move faster and fix these leaks – now.

CLF in Action

With nearly one-third of the state’s 21,000 miles of gas pipes in need of repair, fixing leaks is a massive undertaking – one that Massachusetts’s investor-owned utilities haven’t been willing to spend money on, except in the most hazardous circumstances. And, while new technologies and approaches to fixing leaks are emerging, the risks to investors have been deemed too great to adopt them quickly.

CLF is looking at whether gas utilities can be incentivized to speed up the repair of these damaging leaks through an innovative “pay-for-success” model. In this structure, new private investors would take on some of the financial risks inherent in the use of new technologies or approaches. As part of this work, we are identifying more effective ways to not only to find, measure, and track pipeline leaks, but also to work with utilities to ease the financial risks of trying these new methods. We are also exploring how this type of financing can help utilities to pay for accelerated repair.

At the same time, CLF is working to shape regulations that require utilities to identify and repair environmentally significant leaks more routinely.

What’s at Stake

Massachusetts has some of the oldest gas pipeline infrastructure in the country. Those aging pipes, made of cast iron or unprotected steel, have a higher tendency to leak gas into the atmosphere, creating a significant public safety and environmental hazard.

In addition to posing safety risks, these aging pipes are leaking methane into the atmosphere at alarming rates. Methane is one of the most potent greenhouse gases on the planet. What’s more, gas companies charge their customers for the lost gas, meaning that Massachusetts’s businesses and residents are paying tens of millions of dollars every year for gas they never receive.

A recent study found 1,600 Large Volume Leaks from underground gas pipes in Greater Boston. These leaks are increasing global temperatures, endangering our neighborhoods, and costing us money. It’s time for gas companies to step up their work to repair their leaky pipes.