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Concerned Citizens Against the Pipeline, a network of groups (including Berks Gas Truth, NJ Sierra Club and Sourland Conservancy) along the proposed path of the PennEast pipeline in Pennsylvania and New Jersey, has issued the following statement on the gas leaks that forced evacuations in Flemington, NJ and Allentown, PA on lines operated by PennEast partners AGL and UGI:

Two Evacuations within Two Days Point to Need to Address Aging Infrastructure

In the early hours of February 14th, residents of 17 homes in Flemington, NJ were forced to leave because of a gas leak that filled one of the homes. Two days later, residents of an entire block in Allentown were evacuated when gas leaked into several homes. As the nation’s pipeline infrastructure has aged, leaks have become more common occurrence, sometimes with devastating consequences.

The recent leaks occurred just days after the fourth anniversary of the leak on a UGI pipeline that killed five people, leveled several homes, and damaged 47 homes and businesses in Allentown. “We have a ticking time bomb under most of our cities, especially in the Northeast where we have older cities,” said Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski in an interview last fall. Click here for article.

“The need to protect the public trumps the need for new pipelines. For that reason alone, UGI, AGL and their partners should scrap the PennEast pipeline project. If they proceed, then the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission should deny their application” says Karen Feridun, Founder of Berks Gas Truth.

“Before gas companies build new pipelines they should be required fix the leaks in their existing pipelines. If they did that they would save consumers money and prevent possible disasters. In New Jersey alone, there are over 6,000 miles of old gas lines that need to be replaced. These old lines are owned by PennEast partners. If can’t take care of their current lines, how do expect them to take care if any new ones?” asks Jeff Tittel director NJ Sierra Club. “If they fixed the lines they already own they may realize like the rest of us – we do not need PennEast.”

Public safety isn’t the only reason, however.

Aging pipelines leak methane, the main ingredient of natural gas. Methane is a short-lived greenhouse gas 86 times more efficient than carbon dioxide at warming the atmosphere. Concern about methane’s contribution to climate change has resulted in studies of leakage rates in the development, production, transmission, and distribution of natural gas. Natural gas is touted as the cleaner burning alternative to coal and oil, but its climate benefits are quickly cancelled by the methane leaks that occur at every phase of its product lifecycle. Penn State University noted that issue in its 2013 Pennsylvania Climate Impacts Assessment Update, concluding that leakage rates “may reduce the overall greenhouse-gas reduction potential of substituting natural gas for other fossil fuels.”

“PennEast’s partners should dedicate their resources to fixing the problems in their existing lines today rather than building yet another pipeline that will be tomorrow’s problem,” says Feridun.

(Image credit: Stop the PennEast Pipeline FaceBook page)

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