Ratepayer Ripoff

Are National Grid’s leak repair and pipeline replacement activities in the interest of the City and its resident gas ratepayers? 

-- Ellie Goldberg, 1.2.24

Newton’s Gas Pipes Team* says NO. 

Newton resident Peter Barrer created the Newton Gas Pipes Team (NGPT) to conduct a comprehensive data collection and analysis of Newton’s 2022 methane emissions, gas leak numbers, and leak repair and pipe replacement costs.  

Their analysis shows that National Grid's pipeline replacement projects and cost recovery practices have been ineffective in reducing gas leaks or lowering methane emissions, impose unnecessary and excessive costs on ratepayers and taxpayers and undermine Newton's Climate Action Plan goals. 

The NGPT report provides evidence that it is much more cost effective to reduce gas emissions by repairing leaks rather than replacing so-called “leak-prone” pipes. The report recommends that Newton officials increase pressure on National Grid to prioritize repairing high volume leaks instead of replacing pipes. 

The report also supports reforming the state’s Gas System Enhancement Program (GSEP), originally created to reduce leaks and the risk of explosions by incentivizing the replacement of leak-prone pipes. Although the current GSEP is intended to both replace leak-prone pipes and reduce significant gas leaks, 95% of GSEP payments to National Grid have been for replacing pipes. 

THE NGPT report is also consistent with recently published orders from The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities that discourage the gas utilities pipeline expansion projects, removes their incentive to convert new customers to gas, and explicitly requires the gas companies to preference decarbonization and alternatives such as electrification and geothermal networks before they recover costs.  

The conclusions and recommendations of the NGPT’s report builds on Mothers Out Front Newton’s campaign to raise awareness of Newton’s gas leaks, especially to prioritize fixing Newton’s many high volume gas leaks. 

On September 8, 2022, Mothers Out Front Newton organized a letter from a group of concerned Newton citizens to the Public Facilities Committee (PFC) urging them to pause National Grid’s costly pipeline replacement projects. They wrote, “the pipeline replacements requested by National Grid are inconsistent with our climate plan while needlessly wasting large sums of ratepayer money when there is a more cost effective solution for maintaining safety and reliability of gas service as we transition to the electric-based heating infrastructure our future demands.” 

On September 19, 2022 the citizen’s group sent a letter to the PFC citing examples of relining, a proven, durable, as-safe, less disruptive and lower cost pipeline alternative maintenance method that National Grid had used for decades. The group also wrote, “Newton needs a city-wide comprehensive plan to identify the most hazardous gas pipes and set priorities to make triage and a swift transition a reality.”

In 2022, members of Mothers Out Front Newton, 350Mass Newton, and Green Newton joined together to promote A Future Without Gas (AFWOG), to advocate for the City of Newton to acknowledge both the urgency of the climate crisis and the enormous cost to ratepayers of our gas infrastructure.  On October 7, 2022, AFWOG proposed to the PFC, a comprehensive, city-wide plan to achieve the benefits of

The advocacy of Public Facilities Committee Chair, Councilor Alison Leary, won support for AFWOG’s proposed Resolution for A Future WithOut Gas and for Clean Heat. The PFC agreed to commit to a city-wide plan for triage and repair of the gas pipes and to expedite electrification. Then, on February 21, 2023, the Newton City Council passed the Resolution. 

In fall 2023, members of AFWOG became Advisory Members of the Newton’s Citizens Commission on Energy to align its concerns about the risk, waste and excessive costs of Newton’s gas leaks, to share the Gas Pipes Team report findings and to promote its recommendations to accelerate the transition to clean energy. (See A Proposal for Rapidly Reducing Methane Leaks in Newton.)

AFWOG continues to campaign for a local, city-wide plan and for state policies to enable municipal officials to stop the pipeline replacements and to accelerate the retirement of the gas system and the transition to electrification. See the gaspipes.org list of addresses of Newton largest 2023 leaks HERE.

The Newton Gas Pipes Team report and the gas leaks data online at gaspipes.org will also support the advocacy of the MultiTown Gas Leaks Initiative, a coalition – facilitated by the Metropolitan Area Planning Council – of 28 towns with shared concerns in the National Grid service area. Other interested groups include the statewide Gas Transition Allies (more than 25 organizations and experts) as well as the Massachusetts Building Electrification Accelerator and Zero Carbon MA


  *Gas Pipes Team volunteers: Peter Barrer, Denise Freed, Zach Miller, Bob Persons, Yoshi Futai, Josh Nichols-Barrer, Olivia Sousa and Nicole Krieger.