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Report: Leaks in Gas Pipeline Network Cause Damage, Death, Pollution

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Thursday, June 23, 2022   

A new study shows that almost daily leaks along America's 310,000-mile network of natural gas pipelines are causing death, injury and large-scale property damage.

The report from the Arizona PIRG Education Fund finds over the past decade, pipeline incidents serious enough to require reporting occurred every 40 hours.

Diane Brown - executive director with Arizona PIRG - said the report found between 2010 and 2021, 2,600 explosions killed 122 people, seriously injured 600 and cost Americans more than $4 billion.

"Leaks can occur anywhere," said Brown, "from the transport of gas from the well, through the gathering and transmission pipelines and the distribution lines that carry gas to homes and businesses."

The report - published this week in conjunction with the nonprofit Frontier Group - also found that pipeline leaks in Arizona and elsewhere released 26 billion cubic feet of methane, a greenhouse-gas pollutant linked to climate change.

Brown added that the serious pipeline incidents addressed in the report likely represent only some of the leaks experienced in producing, transporting and burning gas.

"Federally reported gas leaks represent just a fraction of the total," said Brown. "Not all serious gas explosions that have caused death or injury are included in the data if they did not occur in the pipeline system."

The report calls for the U.S. to stop relying so heavily on methane for home heating and cooking, as well as electricity generation. Brown said Arizona regulators have already started down that road.

"The Arizona Corporation Commission is starting to look at some of the risk posed by gas," said Brown. "The commission has brought Southwest Gas before them to discuss recent incidents that have caused Arizonans harm."

In addition to calling for tougher regulations, Arizona PIRG is advocating for better pipeline infrastructure, with improved gas-leak detection systems.

The study, along with gas safety tips for consumers, is online at 'ArizonaPIRGEdFund.org.'

Disclosure: Arizona PIRG Education Fund contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, Consumer Issues, Energy Policy, Urban Planning/Transportation. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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