New England Gas Workers Alliance Highlights Concerns Over Dynamic Risk Report
NEGWA challenges key report conclusions and expresses disappointment over inadequate public safety recommendations
Boston, MA (June 27, 2019)— The New England Gas Workers Alliance (NEGWA) announced today that it has submitted a letter to Dynamic Risk expressing concern and disappointment over some of the Phase One report’s key conclusions and lack of adequate public safety recommendations. The Baker Administration appointed Dynamic Risk to evaluate Massachusetts’ pipeline safety.
Among NEGWA’s chief concerns is Dynamic Risk’s support of a proposal, pushed by natural gas companies, to eliminate the current requirement that natural gas companies provide customers with new meters every seven years. Statute requires residential and commercial meters to be changed every seven years – a step that is vital not only for safety, but to ensure that meters continue to work efficiently so customers are not overcharged.
According to the letter, this seven-year requirement is crucial to ensure that “schools, homes and businesses have safe natural gas piping and appliances. Further, we cannot fathom how a report purporting to focus on safety would advocate for the removal of a critical, regular, on-site inspection by qualified natural gas personnel.”
NEGWA also strongly disagrees with Dynamic Risk’s assessment that unions and other stakeholders are not sufficiently focused on safety, and the firm’s questioning of whether the Attorney General’s office should continue to have the role of ratepayer advocate.
“It’s no secret that Massachusetts’ natural gas system has come under enormous scrutiny over the past year – in large part due to the Merrimack Valley gas explosions and costly National Grid lockout,” said Kathy Laflash, President of NEGWA. “While we support an independent evaluation, we’re concerned that Dynamic Risk is not truly independent, and instead is beholden to the interests of natural gas companies. We hope and expect that our questions and concerns will be addressed so that Dynamic Risk can produce a substantive and comprehensive Phase Two report that truly achieves the objectives outlined by the state.”
Following the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions, the Commonwealth contracted with Dynamic Risk to conduct a statewide examination of the safety of the state’s natural gas distribution system and the operational and maintenance functions of natural gas companies operating here.
In addition to disagreements with some of the findings in the Dynamic Risk report, NEGWA also says it’s “disappointed with the inadequacy of the public safety recommendations.” Because natural gas companies operating in Massachusetts have varying procedures for maintaining, inspecting, installing, operating, documenting and responding to gas pipeline emergencies, NEGWA recommends the development of comprehensive and uniform operations manuals and procedures, and new regulations requiring the uniform grading of gas leaks and investigation procedures.
Dynamic Risk also failed to include other commonsense safety recommendations in its Phase One report. NEWGA recommends that the state require the installation and maintenance of underground main and service line valves, institute employee whistleblower protections, require minimum staffing requirements at natural gas companies and adequate training of field employees. NEWGA also recommends that the state implement reforms to improve DPU’s oversight of natural gas companies, and to implement a safety complaint process that features a publicly-accessible database so consumers can report and track issues.
NEGWA’s mission is to enhance gas reliability and efficiency, and the organization has been a key advocate for increased gas safety measures to better protect the public and workers. The Alliance is comprised of four unions representing 1,800 workers employed at Berkshire Gas, Eversource and National Grid.
Two NEGWA members – Joe Kirylo, president of USW Local 12003, and John Buonopane, president of USW Local 12012 – are members of the Independent Review Panel assembled by Dynamic Risk. NEWGA is also expressing concern that Dynamic Risk spent a far greater amount of time meeting with natural gas companies that with the union representatives on the panel, thus skewing the conclusions and recommendations in the Phase One report.