A new study from the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club has representatives of the environmental group sparring with one of the state’s natural gas utilities and state regulators over the adequacy of leak detection programs have found natural gas leaks higher than reported.
The study commissioned by the state’s Sierra Club chapter found that in Hartford alone, natural gas pipelines leak approximately 43,000 cubic feet per day, or 313 metric tons per year. That’s enough natural gas to power about 214 U.S. households annually, according to officials with the organization.
The study used precise measuring devices and was performed by a Southborough, Massachusetts-based company, Gas Safety Inc., said Martha Klein, a spokeswoman for Sierra Club of Connecticut. Robert Ackley, Gas Safety’s founder, said the results the company found in Hartford “are similar to what we’ve been finding all over the United States.”
“The rate of natural gas leakage from pipelines is much higher than what the industry claims and what the regulators estimate,” Ackley said in a statement. “These companies could and should do more to prevent and repair leaks, but they don’t.”
But Dennis Schain, a spokesman for the Public Utilities Regulatory Authority, challenged Ackley’s claims. Regulation of the natural gas industry in Connecticut is done by PURA.
“PURA has one of the most effective leak detection programs in the nation,” Schain said. “We have some questions and concerns about the methodology of the report.”
Natural gas utilities are required by law to keep records of all leaks and report them to PURA, according to Schain. The types of natural gas leaks are broken down into three categories, he said.
“A Grade 1 release of natural gas has to be reported and addressed immediately,” Schain said. “There is a very specific timetable for how quickly Grade 2 leaks are reported and remediated as well. We have a good handle on the situation.”