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Tuesday, November 20, 2018

Baker-Polito Administration Files Legislation to Strengthen Natural Gas Safety Procedures

Baker-Polito Administration Files Legislation to Strengthen Natural Gas Safety Procedures
Proposal Would Require Approval of Professional Engineer for Gas Infrastructure Work

BOSTON – The Baker-Polito Administration today filed legislation that would require all natural gas work that could pose a material risk to public safety be reviewed and approved by a certified professional engineer. An Act to Ensure Safety and Soundness of the Commonwealth’s Natural Gas Infrastructure is in response to a recommendation issued by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) last week in the wake of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.

“We are filing legislation to require certified professional engineers to review and approve natural gas work in order to provide another critical check and balance on the Commonwealth’s gas infrastructure,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We look forward to working with our colleagues in the Legislature to pass this legislation without delay in order to ensure continued safety of Massachusetts’ residents and energy infrastructure.”

According to the legislation filed in the House, natural gas engineering plans and specifications must bear the stamp of approval of a certified professional engineer when that work could pose a material risk to public safety, as determined by the Department of Public Utilities (DPU). In its recent report, the NTSB noted the Commonwealth is one of many states that do not require the approval of public utility engineering plans certified by a professional engineer. The legislation filed will ensure that natural gas engineering work is performed consistent with a standard of care and in accordance with a strict code of ethics, and that proposed work has been approved by a certified professional engineer.

“The safety of the Commonwealth’s residents and natural gas infrastructure is of the utmost importance to the Department of Public Utilities,” said Department of Public Utilities Chair Angela O’Connor. “The legislation filed by the Baker-Polito Administration will enable the Department to work closely with natural gas companies operating within the Commonwealth to ensure that infrastructure work is held to the highest industry standards, and is designed in a manner that prioritizes public safety.”

In an effort to promote public safety, DPU ordered both Columbia Gas and National Grid to impose a moratorium on all work, except for emergency and compliance work, across the companies’ entire service territory. Additionally, DPU recently announced the selection of Dynamic Risk Assessment Systems, Inc. to conduct an independent statewide examination of the safety of the natural gas distribution system and the operational and maintenance functions of natural gas companies in the Commonwealth. The review is intended to assess, out of an abundance of caution, the current safety of pipeline infrastructure throughout the Commonwealth.

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