SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (AP) — A new state law would require Massachusetts utilities to pay close attention to natural gas leaks.
The law for the first time creates a uniform, three-tiered classification system for gas leaks. Those classified as Grade 1 leaks would be considered the most dangerous and gas companies would have to fix them immediately.
Gov. Deval Patrick held a ceremonial bill signing on Monday in Springfield, the site of a November 2012 natural gas explosion that leveled one building and damaged dozens of others. Eighteen people were hurt in the blast.
Investigators said the explosion was caused when a Columbia Gas employee accidentally punctured a gas line while probing for a leak. The city last year announced a $650,000 agreement with the company for property damage and other associated expenses.
While Grade 1 leaks would require immediate attention, leaks classified as Grade 2 under the new system would be deemed to pose a future hazard and must be repaired within one year, while Grade 3 leaks — those judged to be the least risky — must nonetheless continue to be monitored.
Priority would be given, however, to any gas leak found within a school zone.
"This legislation will ensure public safety, protect the environment and reduce the cost of utilities for the citizens of the Commonwealth," Patrick said in a statement.