Columbia Gas moves to repair natural gas leaks across service area

  • Marty Nathan speaks about natural gas leaks during a meeting at her home in Northampton in April.

@mjmajchrowicz
Published: 1/26/2017 10:08:12 PM

SPRINGFIELD — Columbia Gas announced Thursday it will implement measures in coming months to address the 566 gas leaks in Springfield alone and in 60 cities and towns across its service territory.

The decision by Columbia Gas to remedy the leaks comes nine months after community groups, including one in Northampton, raised concerns last April about natural gas leaks in their respective areas.

There were at least 91 in Northampton at the time. Columbia officials have said that most of the leaks are classified as Grade 3, which means they’re relatively small and not large enough to pose any danger. Other communities in the region covered by Columbia include Easthampton, South Hadley and Granby, as well as much of Hampden County, according to the company’s coverage map.

City and utility officials told the Gazette last April that the leaks did not pose a threat to public safety.

Steve Bryant, president of Columbia Gas, said in a statement on Thursday that he received a letter in April from the Northampton group “twodegrees@greenneighbors.earth” that expressed concerns regarding the company’s leak repair strategy.

“Those letters caused Columbia, for the first time, to seriously consider the environmental impact of Grade 3 leaks,” Bryant said in the statement.

The plan was officially announced at a press conference Thursday at the Columbia Gas Operations Center in Springfield. Members from Arise for Social Justice in Springfield, the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition and the Home Energy Efficiency Team attended, according to a news release. City officials, such as Mayor Domenic Sarno and City Councilor Adam Gomez, were also in attendance.

“In these days of setbacks and setbacks and setbacks at the federal level, this was a huge step forward,” Marty Nathan, a member of the Northampton group and of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, said in an interview. “We have to do everything we possibly can, and this is the first major breakthrough in the area of (addressing) methane leaks in the state of Massachusetts.”

She said she hopes Columbia’s initiative will be copied by the other gas companies.

Bryant said in the statement that the initiative would kick off at an unspecified date this year and would “continue until all significant leaks are eliminated.”

Michael Majchrowicz can be reached at mmajchrowicz@gazettenet.com.




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