Chair Roy/Barrett and Committee members, thank you for the opportunity to testify on the MATH bill.
My name is Nathan Phillips. I am an ecologist at Boston University, where I have been researching gas leaks since 2012. I strongly support using the 20-year time frame in methane accounting, and I want to tell you two stories about why you should support the second and third provisions as well.
Provision two requires the DEP to account for emissions beyond the leaks from pipes under our streets. These include emissions from gas compressor stations like in Weymouth, and high pressure transmission pipelines.
I have collected data and made calculations from multiple events over the last three years where Enbridge spewed large volumes of gas from the Weymouth Compressor, and its transmission pipeline running through residential areas of Newton, Needham and Wellesley.
I estimated the emissions of just one of these blowdowns, the complete evacuation of a 2.6 mile stretch of two-foot diameter pipe, operating at over 400 pounds per square inch pressure, on one afternoon in 2019, to be equivalent to two thousand metric tons of carbon dioxide using the 20-year time scale, equal to the annual carbon emissions of 439 gasoline cars.
On October 8, 2019, one of these blowdowns created toxic gas concentrations at the Tender Loving Care Childcare Center on River Road between Waltham and Weston at 50 times background levels, and on August 18, 2019, at over four times background, permeating the grounds of the Newton Wellesley Hospital.
Residents of the Fore River Basin are routinely exposed to air concentrations of gas that are at least as high as these levels. Methane is accompanied by toxic compounds in gas, some with no lower determined limit considered to be safe.
And though these pipeline “blowdowns” are pre-planned, no local residents were alerted. No agency in the Massachusetts Government was alerted, not DEP, not DPU, only local fire departments and town officials are notified.
Incredibly, there is no state accounting for emissions from pipeline and compressor blowdowns The second provision of the MATH Act rectifies this large deficiency in climate accounting.
Provision three requires the DEP to keep Massachusetts up to date by reviewing the research on methane accounting every three years. A great example of how updated research can help us improve policies comes from a paper led by Margaret Hendrick, with myself and Bob Ackley, in 2016.
We found that 7 percent of leaks in our gas distribution pipelines emit 50% of the leaked gas, and the policy implications were obvious: prioritize finding and fixing the biggest gushing leaks and avoid replacing pipelines, with its large expense to ratepayers and its lock-in of climate-damaging fossil fuel infrastructure. Going forward, there are sure to be new scientific findings that modify how we account for gas leaks.