Springfield – Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition announced Thursday a new repair program for environmentally significant gas leaks in Springfield and across the Columbia Gas service territory.
Columbia Gas announced that they will take steps in the coming months to begin repairs on 566 gas leaks in the City of Springfield, as well as others across the sixty cities and towns included in their service region. The announcement came in response to concerns raised by community groups, and is the result of working meetings with those groups that started last spring.
The Press Conference, which took place at the Columbia Gas Operations Center in Springfield, was attended by Steve Bryant, President of Columbia Gas, Jesse Lederman, Director of Public Health and Environmental Initiatives at Arise for Social justice in Springfield, Dr. Marty Nathan of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, and Audrey Schulman, President of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, a statewide organization. They were joined by Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno, and Springfield City Councilor Adam Gomez.
“In April of last year, I received a letter from the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition and a similar letter from a group of concerned citizens in Northampton, expressing concerns about Columbia’s leak repair strategy,” said Bryant. “Those letters caused Columbia, for the first time, to seriously consider the environmental impact of Grade 3 leaks.“
Grade 3 gas leaks, leaks that are classified to not pose a danger to life and property, have previously not been a priority for repair.
“Columbia will, over the coming months, identify those leaks that are likely to be the largest methane emitters and develop a program to eliminate them,” continued Byrant, “The program will begin in 2017 and, in consultation with the City of Springfield, continue until all significant leaks are eliminated.”
Bryant praised community groups who brought the issue forward, calling their actions “one of the finest examples of community activism that I have experienced.”
“When we first learned that there were over 500 on-going gas leaks throughout the City of Springfield, and many more throughout the Commonwealth, we were both alarmed and concerned,” said Jesse Lederman, Director of Public Health and Environmental Initiatives at Arise for Social Justice, a Springfield non-profit that coordinates the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition. “Columbia Gas took these concerns seriously.”
“Columbia Gas’s actions here today are one of the finest examples of corporate responsibility and stewardship that we have ever seen, and a testament to the powerful impact that our communities, local government, and corporate neighbors can have when we all work together,” continued Lederman. “It is here, in these local partnerships, that we can make some of the most impactful differences in moving Springfield, and cities like Springfield, towards a more sustainable, healthy, and clean future.”
Audrey Schulman, the President of the Home Energy Efficiency Team, which has worked on issues of gas leaks across the state, will work with Columbia Gas on their program.
“Springfield and Columbia Gas are taking the lead in creating a blueprint forward for this country,” said Schulman. “Columbia Gas is finding and fixing the highest volume leaks first in order to save ratepayer money, reduce tree damage and emissions, while coordinating with the city and local organizations. This is the sort of smart practical action that all utilities should take.”
Dr. Martha Nathan, a Northampton resident and member of the Springfield Climate Justice Coalition, led the conversations in Northampton with Columbia Gas, and highlighted the partnership between the upper and lower valley activists.
“This is a great example of folks from the lower Pioneer Valley and upper Pioneer Valley working together,” said Nathan. “We need more regional and statewide cooperation to address issues that impact all of our communities.”