natural gas watch

Google the words “natural gas explosion” and you get well over 2.2 million hits – that’s because natural gas explosions seem to be occurring with disturbing regularity in this country.

Natural gas explosions are happening with increasing frequency across the country.

For example:

January 19, 2011, a natural gas main explodes in Philadelphia, killing one individual and critically injuring three others.

December 29, 2010, a massive natural gas explosion destroys a furniture store in aDetroit suburb, killing two employees. Their families have filed wrongful death suits against the natural gas utility, Consumers Energy.

September 9, 2010, an horrific natural gas explosion devastated a neighborhood in San Bruno, California, killing eight people and destroying 38 homes.

The question, we fear, is not if a natural gas explosion of similar magnitude could happen in New York City or some other major American urban center, it’s when.

Indeed, there are more than 5,000 miles of natural gas pipeline beneath the streets, homes and buildings of New York City and according to public records, a significant portion of that underground pipeline is made of aging cast iron that’s prone to leak. Indeed, hundreds of miles of this pipeline are at least 100 years old and some of it even dates back to 1889.

The pipeline that exploded in San Bruno, by comparison, was 62 years old.

Unfortunately, no one can say with any certainty what condition the natural gas pipelines under New York City are in; the only way anyone can find out for sure is when there’s a leak – or worse.

The New York Post ran a story detailing the magnitude of the problem back in September, in the days following the natural gas explosion that destroyed nearly three city blocks in San Bruno, but since that time, the public discourse has moved on, overtaken by current events that have pushed the problem out of the public eye.

As far as the natural gas utilities are concerned, that’s probably a good thing. But San Bruno hasn’t forgotten, and neither should New York City.

How safe is New York City’s natural gas infrastructure?

Over the coming weeks and months, will track some of these natural gas tragedies, highlighting some of the more disturbing incidents.

More importantly, will begin looking more closely at New York City’s aging natural gas infrastructure in an effort to quantify the magnitude of the risk in New York City.


Leave a Reply