Natural-Gas Leak Puts Pressure on Fossil-Fuel Projects

A natural-gas pipe leak in Providence has neighbors worried about accidents and proposed fossil-fuel projects. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

A natural-gas pipe leak in Providence has neighbors worried about accidents and proposed fossil-fuel projects. (Tim Faulkner/ecoRI News)

Videos and text by TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — National Grid is keeping quiet about a March 29 natural-gas leak on Allens Avenue, but critics of the major expansion of natural-gas infrastructure taking place across the region are speaking up.

Wendy Graca of South Coast Neighbors United has been leading opposition against proposed liquefied natural gas storage tanks in Acushnet, Mass., and new pipelines in Freetown, Mass. The projects are part of a joint natural-gas expansion project by Spectra Energy, National Grid and Eversource Energy.

“It’s all about money,” Graca said.

Science and common sense, Graca said, suggest that the future of energy development is to build more renewable energy. New pipelines and natural-gas power plants simply pollute the environment, cause health problems and exacerbate climate change, she said.

“It’s foolish and dangerous to put these types of facilities in such close proximity to people,” Graca said.

The recent gas leak comes three weeks after a train car containing ethanol derailed on Allens Avenue, and just four days after a natural-gas explosion in the United Kingdom injured two people seriously and sent 30 more to the hospital.

“It’s getting worse and worse and scarier and scarier for me,” said Monica Huertas, who lives a half-mile from the site of the gas leak.

Huerta's two young children suffer from asthma and eczema which she attributes to air pollution from the city’s industrial waterfront. 

Tracy Manzella of Citizens Against the Rehoboth Compressor Station said she spoke with neighbors who said they smelled foul odors and heard loud noises for several hours after the leak occurred. She said the media was focused on the low number of power outages.

"What about hundreds and thousands of tons of chemicals shot into the atmosphere that everyone is exposed to?" Manzella asked.

Manzella and other pipeline opponents have questions about the volume of leaked chemicals and whether the leak occurred on a natural-gas pipeline or a gas main. National Grid has yet to release any information about the March 29 leak.