America’s smallest state seems to offer up a microcosm of natural gas’s systemic safety failures. One needs look no further than a spate of recent leaks and explosions. Alex Kuffner of the Providence Journal reports:
“Rhode Island’s natural gas distribution system has a troubling percentage of bare steel and iron pipes — outdated materials prone to corrosion and cracking that need to be replaced for the public’s safety.
“Aging pipes are a nationwide concern. They cause leaks that can endanger homes and people, cost billions of dollars in lost gas, and contribute to emissions that warm the atmosphere.
“The problem is particularly acute in Rhode Island. According to a state-by-state survey by the federal government:
• Rhode Island has the second-highest percentage of cast- or wrought-iron pipes: 24 percent.
• It has the seventh-highest percentage of bare steel pipes: 8 percent.
• And it has the second-highest percentage of pipes that were installed before 1970: 48 percent.
“An hours-long gas leak on the night of March 29 that closed Route 195 and shut down part of Providence has focused new attention on pipeline safety in Rhode Island. State regulators blamed construction around the high-pressure pipe that destabilized it, causing a joint to crack open.”
Just how bad was this leak?
“The rupture of the high-pressure pipeline owned by Spectra Energy released about 19 million cubic feet of natural gas ($58,000 worth), or enough natural gas to heat and keep the lights on for 190,000 homes for a single day,” according to a report by ecoRI News.
If that sounds bad, hold on, because it gets much worse.