The legislature has made some important progress in combating gas leaks over the last couple of sessions. The state adopted major gas leaks legislation in 2014 which created a gas leaks registry and a three tiered classification system to prioritize and mandate repairs for the two larger classes of leaks. As part of the 2016 energy bill, the state now requires gas distribution companies to repair grade 3 leaks, when road construction exposes such a leak.
There are several bills before the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy relative to oil and gas infrastructure and gas leaks that have been filed this session which may be of interest to advocates. I have grouped them into broad categories below:
Consumer and Ratepayer Protection:
H.1728, An Act relating to consumer protections in the sale and usage of propane gas. This bill would regulate the sale of propane.
S.1850, An Act relative to the protection of propane gas ratepayers. This bill would regulate propane contracts.
H.1760, An Act to establish a home heating commission. This bill would create a Home Heating Commission to study options to reduce heating costs and greenhouse gas emissions and increase energy efficiency in residential buildings.
H.1767, An Act regarding Chapter 30A. This bill would allow a municipality within the service area of the electric or gas company, any
member of the general court whose district includes ratepayers of such company, and any group of not less than 10 persons who are ratepayers of the company to be recognized as a full party for any petition, request for approval, or investigation of a gas or electric company in an adjudicatory proceeding under the state administrative procedure law.
H.1769, An Act prohibiting electric customer support for gas pipeline expansion. This bill would make changes to the DPU contract review statute consistent with the SJC ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC v. DPU decision.
H.2685, An Act further regulating utility contracts. This bill would make changes to the DPU contract review statute consistent with the SJC ENGIE Gas & LNG LLC v. DPU decision.
H.2698/S.1855, An Act protecting ratepayers from gas pipeline expansion costs. This bill would prohibit DPU from approving any contract for the purchase of gas, gas pipeline capacity or liquefied gas storage where any costs would be recoverable from the ratepayers if the contract requires any construction or expansion of interstate gas infrastructure.
S.1868, An Act relative to the impact of natural gas transfer facilities on public health. This bill would establish a moratorium on the issuance of permits for hydraulic fracturing of natural gas in the state and directs UMass to conduct a comprehensive health impacts analysis of the potential public health impacts that could be caused by the extraction, transportation, or compression of natural gas.
Energy Facilities Siting:
H.1736/S.1859, An Act relative to the Energy Facilities Siting Board. This bill would require the Energy Facilities Siting Board consider the public health impacts on the well being of neighbors of new projects.
H.1753/S.1891, An Act regulating the location of pipelines. This bill would prohibit construction of a new transmission pipeline within 1 mile of a playground, licensed day-care center, school, church, area of critical environmental concern, or an area occupied by residential housing.
H.3391, An Act relative to the energy facilities siting board. This bill would expand the membership of the Energy Facilities Siting Board to include a member with experience in public health and require the board to consider public health impacts when reviewing new projects.
S.1852, An Act relative to natural gas pipeline surveys. This bill would restrict preliminary surveys for natural gas pipeline companies unless the company has already been issued a certificate of public convenience and necessity under federal law.
S.1872, An Act relative to pipeline siting. This bill would prohibit s DPU from approving any new gas pipeline or storage capacity if such infrastructure is sited on land protected under Article 97 of the Massachusetts Constitution. If such a facility is sited on Article 97 land, this section voids any DPU approval of related contracts.
H.3400/S.1847, An Act clarifying authority and responsibilities of the department of public utilities. This bill incorporates language and concepts from a number of other bills relative to pipeline expansion.
H.2683/S.1845, An Act relative to protecting consumers of gas and electricity from paying for leaked and unaccounted for gas. This bill would reduce the amount of lost and unaccounted for gas that may be passed along to consumers via DPU rate setting to zero over the course of 6 years.
H.3637, An Act relative to conservation and natural gas infrastructure. This bill would require a utility to recapture an equivalent volume of natural gas lost from the system by repairing identified gas leaks within a municipality prior to adding pipeline capacity in the same municipality. If all identified leaks in a municipality have been repaired, the gas company shall pursue alternative conservation measures within the municipality region.
Natural Gas Transmission:
H.1742, An Act relative to emergency backup power at gasoline stations. This bill would require backup power at all all service stations which operate for 24 hours and advertise on the highway, so that they are able to dispense fuel during an emergency.
S.1838, An Act ensuring the safety of residents, first responders, and gas workers. This bill would provide for additional safety measures during gas construction projects.
S.1843, An Act further promoting energy efficiency and green jobs. This bill would create the Oil Heat Energy Efficiency Fund, which would provide financial incentives for residential customers and small businesses to improve energy efficiency and reduce oil consumption.
S.1863, An Act relative to the sale of natural gas as a motor fuel. This bill would regulate the sale of natural gas as a special fuel, subject to taxation and dispensed in gasoline/diesel gallon equivalents.
Chief of Staff
Office of State Senator William N. Brownsberger