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Democratic Congressional report finds gas leaks cost U.S. consumers billions

natural gas pipeline

lorenkerns/ via flickr

Forbes covers a recent Congressional reportĀ prepared for Senator Edward Markey (D- Massachusetts) which finds gas companies have little incentive to replace aging pipes and pass along the costs of lost gas to consumers.
The report was prepared by the Democratic staff of the House Natural Resources Committee at Markey’s request.
From Forbes:

American consumers pay about a billion dollars a year for natural gas that never reaches their homes.
Here are the key points made by the report:

  • Gas distribution companies in 2011 reported releasing 69 billion cubic feet of natural gas to the atmosphere, almost enough to meet the state of Maineā€™s gas need for a yearā€¦ā€
  • Despite this, ā€œlast year these companies replaced just 3 percent of their distribution mains made of cast iron or bare steel, which leak 18 times more natural gas than plastic pipes and 57 times more gas than protected steel.ā€
  • From 2000 through 2012, there were several hundred explosions which killed 116 people.

A report by Paula Hollywood, Senior Analyst Process Management at ARC Advisory Group provides additional insights into the problem. ā€œCurrently, the US natural gas distribution network is operated by approximately 3,000 companies and falls under the safety regulations of the U.S. Department of Transportationā€™s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

Leaks from natural gas development have also been a cause for concern among environmentalists who worry the main component of gas– the greenhouse gas, methane– could be harming the climate.
A recent peer-reviewed scientific study examining methane emissionsĀ from natural gas production found the leakage rates were not very high. The study was funded by nine energy companies and one environmental group. Other scientists say more data on methane leaks is still needed.

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