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House passes bill to fix gas pipelines

The Massachusetts House of Representatives on Wednesday approved legislation that would pressure utilities to more quickly find and repair leaks in natural gas pipelines.

Boston’s gas pipelines are riddled with thousands of small leaks — often the cause of the occasional rotten-egg-like whiff of mercaptan-laced gas that passerbys smell. Federal and state legislators have called for fixes, citing both safety concerns and the amount of money lost from leaking gas that never gets to consumers.

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State Representative Lori Ehrlich, the Marblehead Democrat who filed the bill, said she was delighted at this step toward addressing the problem.

“The law has permitted gas companies to merely monitor more than 20,000 gas leaks throughout the Commonwealth,” Ehrlich said in a statement. “These unrepaired methane leaks waste almost $40 million of a natural resource annually, and often lead to deadly explosions.’’

Ehrlich’s bill establishes a uniform system for utilities to grade how dangerous a gas leak is and sets a timeline, based on that severity, for how quickly a leak must be fixed. The bill must still pass the Massachusetts Senate.

Erin Ailworth can be reached at eailworth@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @ailworth.
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