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Calif. utilities up budget to trim gas leaks; human error behind Mass. blasts

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Calif. utilities up budget to trim gas leaks; human error behind Mass. blasts

Calif. gas utilities to spend $315M to reduce methane emissions

California's four major gas utilities plan to spend $314.7 million over the next two years to repair or replace pipelines to reduce methane emissions under a resolution that state regulators approved Oct. 11.

The utilities have a goal of cutting methane emissions from their gas systems by 40% by 2030 compared to a 2015 emissions inventory.

Human error played key role in Mass. gas explosions, federal report says

Human error likely played a critical role in the explosions and fires on the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts natural gas distribution system that killed one person and injured about two dozen others, according to an Oct. 11 preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board.

Prior to the fires, a utility-contracted work crew took an old pipe out of service and installed a new one but left key pressure-sensing equipment active on the old line. The sensors were in communication with nearby regulator equipment that determines how much gas should flow through the system. Because the sensors — which were monitoring the now-abandoned pipeline — detected abnormally low pressure, they prompted the regulator to send increasing amounts of gas through the active system.

National Grid must halt Mass. gas utility work after system overpressurization

A National Grid USA technician accidentally released "excess gas" into part of its gas system during routine maintenance in a city north of Boston, the gas and electric utility disclosed Oct. 8, prompting Massachusetts regulators to halt all nonessential work across the company's service territory.

Following the incident, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities ordered National Grid to stop all system work that is not an emergency or compliance-related until the department reviews the company's safety practices, the Boston Herald reported Oct. 9.

US senator looking to pass new laws following Boston-area gas blasts

A federal lawmaker representing Massachusetts, where a fatal series of explosions and fires affected three communities, questioned why existing rules did not prevent the disaster and whether the company involved had shirked its responsibility to operate safely.

Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass., at an Oct. 12 news conference highlighted past tragedies that sparked new laws and regulations aimed at preventing recurrences of the same kinds of disasters. As more is known about the deadly Sept. 13 Columbia Gas of Massachusetts gas distribution overpressurization, it may prove to be another that requires regulatory change, Markey said.

Pacific Northwest gas utilities allow normal gas use as Enbridge restarts pipe

Natural gas utilities in the U.S. Northwest are returning to normal operations after Enbridge Inc. restarted one of two natural gas transmission pipelines impacted by a rupture in British Columbia.

Puget Sound Energy Inc., Cascade Natural Gas Corp. and Avista Utilities on Oct. 11 allowed residential, business and industrial customers to resume normal gas usage as their supply recovers. The three utilities provide gas service to a combined 1.4 million customers, mostly in Washington and Oregon.