By: Linda DeanCampbell – Oct.2018
We must accelerate work to prevent gas-related disasters from happening in our state in the future.
Many of the underground pipes that deliver our natural gas are old and made of metals that corrode over time. As a result, it is reported that the pipeline network across our state contains at least 16,000 leaks.
This session, I cosponsored a bill that would prevent utilities from charging ratepayers for the cost of leaked gas. In July, the Legislature passed part of this bill into law. Starting in 2020, utilities will have to annually report the amount of gas they lose through leaks. This is an important first step but must be followed up with deadlines for these leaks to be fixed.
Although updating our infrastructure is important, it is not enough. We must also ensure that an adequately trained workforce exists to maintain that infrastructure. The Legislature passed an economic development bill this year that allocated $75 million for workforce development grants, as well as $250 million for infrastructure improvement grants through the MassWorks program. These kinds of investments will lower the risk of future catastrophes while yielding economic growth for the Commonwealth. By investing in our workforce, we are investing in the safety of our residents and the preservation of our neighborhoods.
As always, we must also continue to support our first responders so they are equipped to handle emergencies on a moment’s notice. I want to thank our public safety officials for their dedication and sacrifice over these past weeks, and I remain committed to enacting policy to protect their health. That is why I secured $420,000 in this year’s budget for machinery that washes cancer-causing chemicals out of firefighters’ gear and filed a bill to expand access to lung cancer screenings for firefighters.
The Legislature has taken strong action this session to improve infrastructure and prevent disasters, but our state now needs specific action to eliminate the risk of gas explosions. No community should have to endure what the Merrimack Valley has endured this month. I will continue to push for policies that keep communities safe across the Commonwealth.
State Representative Linda Dean Campbell represents the cities of Methuen and Haverhill in the State Legislature. She can be reached at (617) 722-2380 or Linda.Campbell@mahouse.gov.