Tell PHMSA to protect us from pipelines October 19, 2023

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Aerial photo of a house destroyed by a gas explosion in Merrimack Valley, MA, 2018

Five years ago, in the Merrimack Valley of eastern Massachusetts, at least 15,000 residents were forced to evacuate en masse as over-pressurized gas pipelines exploded and simultaneous fires ignited in as many as 40 homes. The result: at least 25 injuries, the death of one teenager, and over $1 billion in damage. The community is still recovering and healing from this preventable disaster.

We are finally seeing action from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA) to avoid another tragedy like this. PHMSA has proposed a suite of initiatives aimed at improving pipeline safety. Now is our opportunity to comment in favor of these safety protections.
Submit a comment to PHMSA!

PHMSA proposes requiring operators to properly evaluate and minimize the risk of over-pressurization and to improve emergency response plans. The goal is to protect workers and community members alike from the dangers and injuries experienced by communities in Massachusetts. A projected decrease in these gas pipeline incidents would lead to an additional benefit: a decrease in greenhouse gas emissions that would otherwise worsen climate change and its associated health impacts.

Pipeline infrastructure is aging, and many homes still rely on gas to heat their homes. While we advance towards a zero-carbon, all-electric future, everyone deserves to be protected from the climate, health and safety harms posed by gas pipelines. Tell PHMSA to implement additional safety regulations today.

Take Action

The deadly 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions are a vivid example of the need for more pipeline safety regulations. Submit a comment to PHMSA urging them to strengthen pipeline safety measures.

Advice for writing your comment:

  1. Include the agency name and identify Docket No. PHMSA–2021–0046 at the beginning of your comment.
  2. Introduce yourself along with your interest in this rulemaking. Why does it matter to you personally, professionally, or otherwise?
  3. Explain why you are in support of this rule. Include what feels most important to you.

Edit the sample language below as you see fit, based on your interests and expertise. Please be sure that the final comment is in your own words.

Sample Language:

My name (health credentials if relevant) is _____, and I would like to express my support for strengthening Docket No. PHMSA-2021-0046 as presented by the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA).

  1. While the country is still reliant on gas, we must make its transport as safe as possible.
    • The use of gas in our homes is dangerous for health and safety reasons, from the danger of fires and explosions to exacerbating childhood asthma and impeding cognitive development.
  2. This proposal will protect both health and the environment.
    • With safer pipeline protocols, there will be fewer large-scale leaks of greenhouse gases, the main driver of climate change. 
    • Methane leaks can cause effects from dizziness and rapid breathing, to injury and deaths from fires and explosions.
    • The policy adheres to Justice40, a policy set forth to promote environmental justice, because it protects people in low-income communities and communities of color, who are more likely to live in close proximity to pipelines.
  3. Emergency response plans must be updated, and it is crucial to involve multiple parties, including but not limited to: pipeline operators, first responders, relevant government actors from the local to federal agency level, and local hospital systems.
    • They need to be prepared for any incident along a pipeline.
    • Operators must take on the bulk of this responsibility via improved record keeping, realistic risk management, and regular maintenance of pipelines. This process should be redundant in order to spot any issues before a small mistake creates an unsafe situation.
    • This will not only protect the health of community members but also increase safety precautions and protections for pipeline workers.
  4. We cannot let a disaster like the one in Merrimack Valley happen again.
    • This incident caused the evacuation of at least 15,000, loss of gas connectivity to nearly 10,000 homes for several months, 25 injuries including to first responders, and one death.

PHMSA exists to ensure safety regulations are in place, making this policy paramount to its mission. This proposal can save lives and should be treated as such. I would like to see PHMSA finalize this rulemaking in such a way that public health, occupational safety, and environmental justice are at the forefront. This should be done as soon as possible to avert another disaster where policy has been lacking.

Thank you for proposing this rule and for the opportunity to comment.


Name (or you may submit anonymously)

Please copy and paste your comment here once it is written in your own words. Comments will be accepted until Monday, November 6, 2023.

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