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Episode 419: Post-Truth
Ben and Travis discuss the National Climate Assessment, the use of tear gas at the border and The Proud Boys. Ben is then joined by writer Rachel Monroe to discuss her upcoming book and her profile on Damien Echols in the New York Times. Get your first refill pack free at http://getquip.com/tophat Get a $500 credit towards your Roofstock marketplace fee this month only at http://roofstock.com/tophat Casa Bossa Nova, Hep Cats, Kevin MacLeod (incompetech.com) Licensed under Creative Commons: By Attribution 3.0 License creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/
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2027 - 2/13 Green New Deal & Winning the Tyler Prize For Environmental Achievement w/ Michael Mann
Michael Mann (@MichaelEMann), Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and co-winner of the Tyler Prize For Environmental Achievement, joins us. On today's show: Sam on Olbermann throws to Sam the Weatherman. Michael Mann (@MichaelEMann), Distinguished Professor of Atmospheric Science at Penn State and co-winner of the Tyler Prize For Environmental Achievement, joins us. We are facing a climate crisis of unprecedented proportions. Record high temperatures, insect die-offs, and increasingly volatile weather patterns paint a grim picture. A recent NASA report blamed the oil and gas industry for the majority of methane emissions. Mann outlines the scope of the problem, then posits some solutions, including a carbon tax, tax incentives for clean energy, and a Green New Deal. Jamie says: For a collection of lectures that tackle climate change from a Marxist perspective, visit https://wearemany.org/topic/environment On the fun half: Brandon Straka of #WalkAway tries to dredge up Sam's old tweet. Fox News tells Americans to stop complaining about their shrunken tax refunds. Stephanie Ruhle says we should hate the game, not the billionaire players; Anand Ghirardardas clarifies it's the system that's immoral. John Barrasso says Green New Deal will abolish ice cream, cheese burgers. Kevin McCarthy and GOP celebrate in Rose Garden after House Obamacare repeal. What have the members of the MR crew done for economic democracy? A short debate with a libertarian. Plus, your calls! Become a member at JoinTheMajorityReport.com Check out today's sponsors: ExpressVPN has easy-to-use apps that run seamlessly in the background of your computer, phone and tablet. ExpressVPN secures and anonymizes your internet browsing by encrypting your data and hiding your public IP address: To take back your Internet privacy TODAY and find out how you can get 3 months free, go to EXPRESSVPN.com/MAJORITY. Quip is a better electric toothbrush created by dentists and designers: Quip starts at just $25 and if you go to GETQUIP.com/MAJORITY right now, you get your first refill pack for FREE with a Quip electric toothbrush. MedCline: a comfortable Acid Reflux Pillow System for your bed that keeps you in the best sleeping position for natural relief. Go to goodnightheartburn.com or call 800-610-1607 to learn more and try MedCline today! Enter the code MAJORITY at checkout for fast, FREE shipping. Contribute to Nomiki Konst! Help elect her New York Public Advocate by contributing here Check out The Michael Brooks Show at patreon.com/tmbs, and the new TMBS YouTube channel for all short TMBS clips Check out Matt’s podcast, Literary Hangover, at Patreon.com/LiteraryHangover or on iTunes Check out Jamie’s podcast, The Antifada, at patreon.com/theantifada, on iTunes, or via your favorite podcast app Follow the Majority Report crew on Twitter: @majorityfm @SamSeder @_michaelbrooks @MattLech @jamie_elizabeth @Bf1nn
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Aging Gas Pipelines: The Dangers Of Outdated Infrastructure Around The U.S.
This message comes from on point sponsor, indeed if you're hiring with indeed you can post a job in minutes set up screener questions than zero in on your shortlist of qualified candidates using an online dashboard get started at indeed dot com slash NPR podcast. From WB. You are Boston and NPR I'm magnetized party. And this is on point. Spoiler up that was a gas. We get your in the alley with been leaky. Please check it had been picked already in New York City. One man said he thought the world was coming to an end a deafening explosion caused two of -partment buildings to collapse. Contacted and over there having steamed issue dropped to five hundred pound bomb. Right main street had forty one people were killed. It's a lot of people killed them in one small area, the wheezy, Anna, New York, Texas, most recently, Massachusetts, just a few of the deadly natural gas explosions, we've witnessed over the past several decades American infrastructure is aging everywhere, but natural gas pipelines, may pose a particular threat underground and out of sight, the more than seventy thousand miles of cracking. Leaking old pipelines are easy to forget, especially when a complex patchwork of state and federal oversight makes it even harder to come up with a clear path forward on how to fix them. So this hour on point natural gas and America's aging infrastructure beneath our feet, and you can join us from small leaks, two major explosions. How do you judge the danger of our old natural gas pipelines? What's it gonna take to fix? Those tens of thousands of miles of this critical infrastructure, and are you prepared to pay the cost? Join us anytime at on point radio dot org or Twitter and Facebook at on point radio will join me today from Washington is Gregory Corti. He's national correspondent for USA today. And he reported a major story for the paper just this week headlined pipeline peril natural gas explosions reveal silent danger lurking in old cast iron pipes, and you can get a link to that it on point radio dot org. Gregory welcome to the program. How am I going to be with you also with us in the studio is cure blessing? She's a reporter for the Lawrence eagle Tribune. She's covered the natural gas explosions that happened earlier this year in Massachusetts, extensively cure. Welcome to you. Hi, meghan. Thanks for having me. And by the way, we'll have links cures reporting also on point radio dot org, but Gregory, and I let me start with you. Give us a sort of national lay of the land here. How would you describe the state of the pipeline infrastructure across the country? Well, all the. The structure was built a century or more ago when we first sort of discovered natural gas as a cheap and abundant source of of energy to heat our homes to cook our food to to to heat our water to give us hot showers, and a lot of it believe it or not has not been replaced of since that time. The there are tens of thousands of miles of old cast iron gas means in major American cities, especially the older industrial cities in the in the in the northeast, but also, you know, around the country that has the older infrastructure, and it's by and large to a lot of people. I think out of sight out of mind, it's underneath the street of the there's a service line that goes from that main into your home that hooks up to a meter, and you know, as these things of begin to corrode over the years. They can be extremely dangerous. Okay. So in a minimum talk specifically about sort of. The latest disaster that that occurred in Massachusetts regarding natural gas pipelines. But, but Gregory, I mean, when we're talking about infrastructure across the country here is it that we have sort of a national scale problem, or you know, given how localized these pipelines. Ultimately are in that last mile is it that we have sort of pro certain problem areas that it, you know, if we just focused on those than most of the issues would would fall away, it is it is a problem across the country. But particularly a problem in places like Boston, New York and the incident that that we're we're talking about here in Massachusetts. It's particularly hard to to replace those pipes because the houses are very close together the streets pave the there may be local regulations as to how often utilities can dig up those streets. But I've even seen tragic explosions in newer subdivisions where pipelines where installed incorrectly or where the when the utility was. Upgrading equipment, very often. As we saw in Massachusetts. It's win. These pipelines are being upgraded and long-term. That's that should help the safety issue. But anytime you dig into underground and are digging around these pipes it can get dangerous and of catastrophic. Okay. So let's talk more specifically than about this latest disaster that drew the nation's attention back to our natural gas infrastructure. It happened in September of this year in both Lawrence and Andover. Massachusetts where natural gas explosions destroyed. Dozens of homes killed a teenager forced the evacuation of entire neighborhoods. So first of all here's Andover. Massachusetts police chief Michael Mansfield describing what his city was like following these explosions. Look like Armegeddon it really did. There were billows bills are smoke coming from from Lawrence behind me. We could see plumes of smoke in front of me. Within the town of Andover. It just looked like an absolute war zone. Well, cure a blessing. You're reporter for the Lawrence eagle Tribune you were there on that day and covered what happened extensively just take us back. What was it? Like, yes. So it was I have to say one of the most surreal experiences. I've had I was in the newsroom about four PM when we heard a fire come in over the scanner thought little of it. Fires happen all the time. Senator reporter, and then we heard another one come in and thought what are the odds? That's really unlucky number only heard the third fire come in. We thought something must be wrong. And that's when one of our photographers who had gone to the first fire called us and said, it's gas. This is going to be a problem. And it was right after that that this Ganor just blew up. So I threw a web update online and got out into the field and our newsroom sits on top of a hill that overlooks Lawrence. And as soon as I pulled out of the parking lot just as as chief Mansfield said, you could just see these plumes. Of black smoke just covering the city. So I went to the first fire I could find and one of the most alarming things to see was that I beat one of the firetrucks their first of all, right? And then a lot of the firefighters. I saw were having a hard time hooking up to the hydrants because so many were being tapped. There is no water pressure. I see. So they couldn't even fight the fires. They were responding to me ultimately due to mutual aid agreements. We had a fire and emergency crews coming from all over Massachusetts right to to help in Lawrence and Andover. But how many homes were destroyed by these series of explosions? I believe the preliminary number. I don't think it's finalized yet. Even at this point. But there were about AD fires by the end of the evening. Eighty eighty. Yes, simultaneously. Okay. And and I mean, we'll talk about the response from Columbia gas who's the utility in charge of these natural gas pipelines. But but what did they determine as the cause of it ultimately as they were replacing the cast iron pipes that Gregory mentioned a few minutes ago to replace him a PBC. The NTSB found that they left out in their instructions to the contractor that. They're critical sensors in that cast iron pipe that tell regulators within the system how much gas pressure is in that line. So when they removed the sensor, the regulators sense that the pressure was falling and kept pumping more and more gas into the system. Ultimately raising the pressure to twelve times the safe limit twelve times and that led directly to these dozens of explosions and fires, okay? So, but but to this point and in Gregory was making it a little bit. Earlier Columbia gas has actually tried to upgrade the the natural gas pipelines in the Lord's in Andover area for some time there they were in the process of doing that some forty percent of the pipelines. There's a is that number in the ballpark. I think that sounds right. Yeah. Okay. So so this so, you know, I guess I'm wondering, you know, is this a question of the infrastructure or just a freak accident because of the the error in the instructions to? The workmen who were replacing that section of pipeline. Right. So it's it's hard to say at this point. Because the NTSB doesn't have a final report. But from the preliminary port was released. It definitely seems like this is just an error in essentially the blueprints that Columbia gas gave to the subcontractor. Okay. But it's a major error because here we are several months later, and I have to say, you know, we're we're based in New England here it's going to snow tonight in the greater Boston area likely snow. It's cold do these families these dozens and dozens of families whose homes were destroyed. Do they have a natural gas back? What's the state of their homes? How are they doing? I think that's that's one of the biggest issues here is that. I think a lot of people think this has been resolved two months later, and it really hasn't just from the daily briefing numbers yesterday. There are about thirty five hundred meters that still do not have gastric service restored. So it's thirty five hundred meters. So that doesn't perfectly equate to homes, but it's pretty close. There are seven thousand eight hundred and twenty four individuals currently accounted for in temporary housing seven thousand seven thousand still. Yes. And that doesn't include the people who were staying with friends and family who didn't need to go through Columbia gas. I mean, it's it's really silly huge problem in the Merrimack valley, and who are they getting assistance from who should be giving them assistance. But you would hope it would be gas. I just wrote a story last week that the main problem is that gas has not been very communicative. There's been a lot of mixed signals different answers coming from different people. And that's what's been frustrating. People the most alright Gregory a Mona loop you back in here. What are the lessons that this ongoing disaster? Because clearly it's not over for the people who live in Lawrence and Andover the Merrimack valley in Massachusetts. What lessons should we take from that regarding the state of our natural gas infrastructure, the the industry that represents natural gas utilities across the country says this is a game changing incident, and they certainly expect that this will lead to of a lot of changes in how they do business across the board. But at this point, it's really hard to know, what those changes are going to be the there's still an active investigation from the NTSB, which was talking about the National Transportation Safety board. We don't usually think of of pipelines is transportation. But but they are. Are. And so that's why the NTSB gets involved, and they're still investigating these these investigations can take months or years, and until then the Columbia gas, and and other people involved in this or prohibited from talking about the exact causes of this. But, but as we know this was a mistake in the in the instructions given to the crews, so we're going to look at changes in how crews are trained the replacement schedules for these pipelines, and ultimately what they're made of. And and how these plans are put together. Yeah. When we come back. We're gonna talk about who has oversight or that patchwork of state and federal oversight over our natural gas infrastructure. That's what we're talking about this hour. We're talking about those pipelines beneath our feet as Gregory courtiers has told us that many of them are very old. Obviously a lot of them are leaking sometimes so dangerously. We have natural gas explosions. What's it going to cost? And how do we repair? This coast to coast. I'm Magna chucker bardy. This is on point. Olympic gymnastics, doctor Larry Nassar, abused hundreds of women and girls for more than twenty years before he was caught here. How a team of women brought down a serial sexual predator believed a new podcast for Michigan radio and NPR. This is on point. I'm magnitude bardy. We're talking this hour about America's aging infrastructure, but particularly the natural gas pipelines, the millions of miles of Matt natural gas pipelines coast to coast that are running underneath our feet much of it is extremely aged much of it is old cast iron and is in need of upgrades. And sometimes in terrible devastating circumstances. We reminded of that with major explosion such as we saw earlier this year in Massachusetts. And I'm joined today by Gregory Corti. He's national correspondent for USA today. He's written extensively about America's aging natural gas infrastructure. Cure blessing is also with us. She's a reporter at the Lawrence eagle Tribune. She covered the Merrimack valley explosions that happened in September extensively here and Gregory. And cure just want to explore with you for a minute. This issue of who has oversight over this infrastructure. I mean, Gregory in your piece you described this this patchwork of federal. Title and state level oversights. How would you describe what that patchwork is? Yeah. Yeah. It's a legacy of of how the system came into being and every natural gas utility all utilities really are regulated the state level usually by a public utilities commission or public utilities department in Massachusetts. And you know, the they have regulated of these things from the beginning of time. And then in nineteen sixty eight president Lyndon Johnson in a state of the union address is part of the consumer protection initiatives that he was seeking the great society. Ask congress to specifically pass a law for natural gas pipeline safety, congress was reluctant. But then later that year there was a huge explosion Richmond. Indiana, killed forty one people is the worst possible incident where the natural gas fire happened next door to a gun factory. The gunpowder exploded forty-one people were killed in that prompted congress involved, but they really sort of took a half step. They didn't want to take regulation completely away from the states. So they created a an office of pipeline safety to sort of oversee the the create some Standard Federal regulations, but still left at the states to enforce them. Okay. And and that's pretty much what we have today. Okay. So then cure blessing. How did that patchwork play out and what happened in Lawrence and Andover? Massachusetts. September. I thought that was really interesting part of Gregory's piece because on the same day that the NTSB released their preliminary report that essentially pointed the finger at Columbia gas, the Massachusetts department of public utilities released a statement that they were asking gas companies across the state to review their own safety protocols before continuing work. But that was all it said was that they were asking the companies to review their own protocols, which I thought was kind of striking because you know, I I don't know if they're going to go and check that they've done that or or if they're just going to rely on these companies to to handle that themselves so still leaving it to the company's the utilities to determine for themselves as as as Gregory of reported, right? Although I do believe the governor Baker has brought an independent an independent investigator to oversee how the Commonwealth in particular overseas these companies. Okay, interesting. So so after that that NTSB report care that you're talking about Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey made some comments about this. And he. Says that for all the reasons we're talking about right now that there's still a lot of unanswered questions, and he's called for congressional hearings on this. I reviewed Columbia guesses safety operations in response to plans and found that the company was woefully unprepared. For a disaster of this magnitude. That's Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey. Well, Greg, Gregory and Curiel hold on here for just a second. Because I want to bring in now Cynthia quarter min she is she was excuse me, the top administrator of the US pipeline and hazardous materials Safety Administration. She served in that post under President Obama from two thousand nine to two thousand fourteen she's a senior fellow with the global energy center at the Atlantic Council now, and she's with us from Washington, Cynthia cornerman, welcome to on point high magnum happy to be here. It's good to have you. So so described to us. I mean, you have experience at the federal level here is there is there a gap. I mean, Gregory and curious seem to be describing to us that there is either a gap between. Federal oversight, and we're states pickup. Or are. We perhaps just trusting individual utilities and companies too much to cover that gap. I I don't think there's a gap. There is a federal agency the hazardous materials agency that you mentioned the pipeline has this materials saved administration, which is in the department transportation, which is there because pipeline movement of oil and gas is considered transportation that is a very very small agency within the department of transportation the pipeline safety piece of that is really only a couple of hundred people. The inspectors we have they have two hundred inspectors who oversee mostly the interstate meaning the pipelines that travel across the country and not those like the ones in Massachusetts, which are interested in are pretty much covered by the states catch somebody who so two hundred inspectors for inch. Interstate pipelines right for across this giant nation of ours. Are those two hundred in huff? Absolutely. Not there. Another three hundred probably close to four hundred state inspectors that work for the individual states as well. So we're talking about a total of six hundred inspectors for about two point one million miles a pipeline both oil and gas around the country. So the coverage is not great. And I agree with Greg about the way the pipeline safety act came into being and the current status of the existing agency. It really was a a sort of bootstrap where the federal government took over with the states we're doing, but they had to as most pieces of legislation are they had to make a compromise. And the compromise. Essentially was let's not step on the state's toes who were always already doing this. And so we'll put this federal system on top of that it it is not ideal at all, right? Gregory. Let me just sort of back to you for a quick second. Because not to put too fine a point on this. But didn't you talk to someone in your reporting who had been in this industry for a long time and said that in the twenty five or thirty years he'd worked in the natural gas field. He'd never once had never once seen one of these federal inspectors because they're just so few of them. Yeah. And then this was a guy his name's Martin, Donald he's based in the Boston area the used to work for for Boston gas, and he was responsible for for natural SAT never saw himself inspector. That's the acronym that we use for the pipeline hazardous material Safety Administration never saw him. So inspector in his entire career. Rarely saw a state inspector. I wanna make another point here is that you do have this issue between state and federal regulation, but there's another level here in since twenty ten the of, you know, the the federal regulators have sort of emphasize this this self regulating mechanism where each utility. Comes up with its own plan called a distribution integrity management plan to identify the onerous to it system, and then some advantages because every system is different based on soils, and geology, and weather and so forth, and who would know better than the than the company managing it. And that's a strong argument for it. But it also leaves to the utilities themselves to decide for themselves. What the problems are in the point that send our Markey was making in that that clip that you played was that the the utility companies don't know what they don't know in that was evident in the Massachusetts explosions. No plan for that nobody ever anticipated that overpressurization event like that could possibly occur. I mean, I guess one way of putting it is that there will always be that kind of black swan event, but how much I mean, Cynthia quarter min on that point how much can we how much should we be expecting these companies and utilities to know to be prepared? I mean, there will always be that outlier event. And we never we don't want that to happen. But is it realistic to say that we should be expecting more of them in terms of? Their their preparedness. And also, let me just put it this way. Should they be more aggressive in their upgrading plans for four this infrastructure? Absolutely. In the first instance safety rests with the operators of these by blinds. And this was a situation where the company should have rigorously thought through all the steps of constructing and removing the existing pipeline and had a plan in place that would have dealt with these regulators that were in the pipeline. I mean that is their responsibility. There are two series of regulations here one of sort of the old fashioned prescriptive rigs that say you do this you meet this requirement in you've met the legal requirement. And then there is the integrity management system. Which is the one that Greg was talking about which is one where essentially you say to the regulated entity. Okay. You know, this system better figure out what the risks are and not just doing the prescriptive things that we can all think of but go that extra step figure out where people are long your pipeline figure out what the risks are that point and address them throughout your system, which I think can be very a very strong standard as well. But companies need to step into that. Right. Well, let's take a quick call here. Let's go to Joe who's calling from Newark, Ohio. Joe you're on the air. Yes, ma'am. I my point is that there's no maintenance anymore anymore. We have got it then gone to contractors and through replying, but they might be from out of state. They don't have a sense of ownership. With where they're at. Then so them if they would listen to good experience, maintenance, I personnel. Then there would be a continuity. They could would be a well knowledge for them. And we would just want to contract and go engineers and don't have good maintenance. Okay. So Jill just as quickly. Do you have sort of a personal experience with this? And you sounding like you coming from the position of someone who might know. I do I do I've worked in maintenance of the whole life and maintenance is always kind of like. It's about a by on a new construction is always favored. But you're you're maintenance personnel. A good engineer is listening to who's out in the field. They can go back and forth. And if you had a man who the staff that had worked for years, they might have been able to alert somebody with a problem. You know, you can't do that. I I don't care what kind of agree you're twenty five year old kid from engineering school. But you made a mistake. Well, Joe thank you so much for your call. Let's go to will who's calling from Piermont New Hampshire will you're on the air. Hi, thanks for taking my call. I just wanted to mention there's a nother issue which applies to propane, which is in Alon rural homes and the piping that's used in the home, which is a fairly new development called CSSD's corrugated stainless, steel, tubing and it explodes during thunderstorms and the previous methods of black iron and copper did not have that problem. And this is going on for twenty years now lightning-resistant version, but that has failed. Also, we'll we'll thank you so much for your call cure blessing. Let me turn back to you here. Because again, the what happened in Massachusetts is our latest example of what can go terribly wrong when we don't adequately. Look after our natural gas infrastructure, the tell us a little bit more detail what steps has Columbia gay. S taken following these explosions. I mean, you were telling me earlier that residents the seven thousand people are still displaced don't feel Columbia gas has done enough. I mean, what more have they done? Right. So immediately after this. They announced that they were going to be replacing all forty five miles of affected pipeline immediately, which they had had a plan in place to do that over the course of I don't know maybe a decade or so so first they announced they were going to replace all of that immediately with PVC piping. They said that they completed that work about a week or two ago ahead of schedule. The problem is that even though that main pipeline has been replaced and is ready to go. There are so many issues in the individual homes, so not only the pipelines leading up to the individual homes, the individual meters, but every single appliance in the home needs to be inspected or Android placed. And because every home is different every home has a different heating. Every home has you know preferences, at the homeowners, etc. It's been very difficult to streamline that process, but that is leading to confusion people have told me that they're told Columbia gas is coming in the next seventy two hours. And then I never show up. They've told me that they had no idea Columbia gas was coming and they show up at their doorstep that they have to come five different times just to fix a stove. I mean, it's been very very confusing. It has Columbia guests committed to bearing the burden of the cost of all of this. They have an according to their quarter three financial filings. They are insured for up to eight hundred million. And I think they project the cost to be about eight hundred or eight hundred sixty million or so, okay. Well, Gregory Corti lemme travek back to you here because we've got a comment on our website coming in from Ian de who's asking please discuss how the failures in our infrastructure are the result of a corporate mindset that promotes returning profits to shareholders over reinvesting. And infrastructure, why should the government and taxpayers be put on the hook for the failure of private companies to maintain? What is a century their property? What do you think? Yeah. That's a really interesting question. And it's it's really how this whole system is set up that that these are run by local utilities, and some places it's actually their their city owned, especially in the south or at Memphis is probably the biggest one that has a municipally owned local gas utility, Philadelphia's another one I should mention, but they're largely though investor owned utilities, and the the premise of utility. And why why investors liked them so much is that you know, that they have dependable returns they pay good dividends. The they're not a big growth stock. But you know, if you're on a fixed income, they provide a steady stream of income, and that's it because of this sort of a deal that's made with state regulators. That says, you know, here's how much you have on your system. Here's how much profit you can expect. And interestingly, there's a supreme court. Precedent from the nineteen thirties that that says that the the the loss guests, there's there's a certain percentage of loss on the counter for gas that goes to release some of those leaks are hazardous which we've been talking about a whole lot of smaller leagues that that in the system that of ten can cause guests to to disseminate into the atmosphere, and those the cost of that loss gas is charged back to the customer, whether they get that gas or not. So there's there's not always incentive by these utilities to fix all of these leaks at least from an economic standpoint because they can write off the cost of that loss campaign well Cynthia coordinate. We just got a minute to go here before the break knows what your thoughts are on that. Well, one thing I forgot to point earlier is in twenty eleven. There was a big incident in Allentown, Pennsylvania, similar to the one in Lawrenceville related to cast iron pipes, the cause was entirely different in in shortly thereafter, the department, and I came together and said we need to repair rehabilitate or replace the highest risk pipelines out there, right and prioritize cast iron pipeline and some beer iron pipeline since that time we have seen the amount of main service lines that are cast iron go out of us in, but we still far far away from where we need to be there Silva still about seven thousand miles a pipeline seven thousand miles a pipeline. Okay. So we're we're gonna talk a little bit more about that. When we come back. You're listening to Cynthia quarter min she was the top administrator of the US. Pipeline and hazardous materials Safety Administration from two thousand nine to two thousand fourteen cure blessing is also with us. She's reporter at the Lord's eagle Tribune, and Gregory court tease with us as well as a national correspondent for USA today, and we're talking about America's aging infrastructure. But specifically those thousands of miles of natural gas pipeline running beneath beneath our feet oftentimes out of sight out of mind until something terrible happens with a natural gas explosion. So what do we need to do to fix this? I'm Meghna Trumper. Bharti? This is on point. About boiling with you. Also, consider podcast fifty years ago. The beatles. Made a mind boggling double album here the white album as you never heard of before from demo tapes. Two brand new mixes. This week on also considered this is on point I'm Meghna chocolate bardy. We're talking this hour about America's aging infrastructure. But specifically about our Nash our natural gas pipeline infrastructure beneath our feet in them joined day by Gregory Corti. He's national correspondent for USA today's written extensively about this issue. Historian this week was headlined pipeline peril. Natural gas explosions reveal silent danger lurking in old cast iron pipes cure blessing is also with us. She's reporter at the Lawrence eagle Tribune in Massachusetts where in September of this year in the Merrimack valley, we had a series of dozens of homes exploding into fireballs due to a major natural gas failure there Cynthia quarter. Min is also with us. She was the top administrator for the US pipeline and hazardous materials Safety Administration from two thousand nine to two thousand fourteen and just to let you all know, we've got a lot of comments coming in here online. Katie is saying on our website isn't. Just another example to invest in up and coming technology instead of aging and crumbling infrastructure. That was designed for a different America history is littered with the remains of abandoned infrastructure and Joe 'em cogs. Well, junior says call me out for preaching to the choir. But it seems reasonably clear to abandon further development of natural gas, infrastructure and divert those investments into wind solar and hydropower. And I want to bring in one more quick voice into this conversation. Christina's seems joins us now from Houston, Texas. She's vice president of the American gas association, the trade organization that represents more the two hundred natural gas companies across America, Christina same's. Welcome to you. Thank you. I should be here. So earlier this hour, Gregory was saying that you know, he's spoken to a Representative of the industry who said that the explosions in Massachusetts Merrimack valley were a game changing incidents. And that was you who said that. So so how exactly is the is the industry going to change or wants to change following what happened in Lawrence and Andover. Well, it just gives you an idea of of how seriously we take these types of incidents immediately following the incident, Massachusetts, we pulled all the companies together for a conference call to explain what it occurred everything we knew from come banned from public officials. So that they were aware we then immediately put out a survey asking every company to tell us everything they could possibly think of to prevent over pressure. Asian from occurring that led to a Roth document we pulled in over two hundred individuals subject matter experts just a few weeks ago, just say here's what we received. So far, what else is missing from that the reason I'm actually in Houston today is we have over thirty companies in another room that are helping us to identify leading practices out of everything that we've received what are the leading practices to prevent overpressurization. And there are a couple of areas that were focused on more focused on what I call the people laments things like, you know, training and processes and procedures, but also the equipment portion items that you know, the hard wires that that can help prevent overpressurization. We'll have that document complete and available to the public within the next two weeks. Well, Christina stand by here for a second. Because it's it seems like a good I. Step a wanna get Cynthia quarter view on this. I mean, again, she was the top administrator for the US pipeline and hazardous materials Safety Administration, Cynthia disaster. This is sound like a positive first step from the natural guests industry. Well, it certainly does sound like a positive first step, but we have to get beyond the first step and actually get to a point where we can prevent these overpressurization from return reoccurring, whether it's some sort of safety valve or a stop. So that the pipeline system will no never to put twelve times as much gas into a pipeline at then it can actually have handle Susan if I may is another way of saying there are things that we know we can do right now that aren't or haven't been done. I'm going to let Christina answer that question. I think there might be ways to do that already. I mean, some of these systems are quite old as we discussed we have pipelines in the ground from the eighteen hundreds still in the systems that are operating. Those are not up to you know, twenty. Two thousand and one standards. It's just not okay. So Christina seems respond to that. Then. I mean, I guess refunding my question, which is are there things that we know we could do right now that don't necessarily need to wait for this. You know, positive first step, but a documentation of new best practices. And so the reason we wanted to create the document I is we wanted to make sure that we had what truly are the leading practices for companies to adopt every system chic, which means that there is not a silver bullet that you can say across the board every company should do XYZ. What we need is a variety of leading practices that companies can adopt based on their unique system. So what you'll see when the documents public is a variety of tools for operators to choose from. Our expectation is many of those are already in place. However, we don't want an incident like this to ever occur again. So whether it be relooking at additional equipment on the system additional human or processes and procedures. What else needs to be done because it's a nobody's interest to have an incident like this occur, Christina. If I may just ask you because we were talking about this a little earlier in the show, and I'd love to get your perspective on it that utilities find themselves in kind of an interesting situation because they are serving the public with key infrastructure that we all need, but many of them are also shareholder owned. I mean, is there attention there that that may prevent or at least dissuade utilities for from acting with a in the most speedy and comprehensive way possible to upgrade all this kid, a critical critical infrastructure because I've got a comment here from our website, just trends is saying as long as. Terms, maintenance, and preventative maintenance or looked upon as costs, we have no chance. So maybe I can and I apologize. If this was covered earlier in the show, but maybe I can just walk through a pipe replacement. I'm at at at a really high level. So there's multiple type replacement is for distribution lines has to be approved by the state commissioners, commissioners, balance, safety and cost to customers. And it's a fun line. You wanna make sure you're safe as possible? And you're replacing the lines that are in need of replacement that may have reached their lights cycle with the cost of the customer. So that's the first stop. How many miles of pipe has the state said can't be replaced from that you you also have to make sure and what they're looking at is. You know, how many qualified individuals does the company how to do this work. What's the public's tolerance? Disruption because when you replace pipe. You're digging up yards, you're digging up streets and a causes disruption. It also increases the cost of the customer. So all of that has to be balanced. If you try to do it all at one customer spills dramatically, go up many streets are torn up, and usually that's that's not something that the public likes. So what you'll see companies doing is replacing as much as they possibly. Can. It may have been mentioned that secretary look good from the former secretary of transportation, you really partnered with the industry shoe, she would get states to embrace faster replacement. You Simpson has a great website of of where there's still cast iron embarrassed to align. And what you'll see is where it took a little bit longer for some states to embrace. Now, we're doing our best to get that out of the ground will Christina seems a vice president of the American guests association a trade organization that represents more than two hundred natural gas supply companies. Thank you so much for joining us today. You're quite welcome. Well, we've got a lot of callers who want to join us. Let me just let them in here for a second. Jeff is calling from Andover. Massachusetts, Jeff you're on the air. I magma. Thank you for taking my call. No problem. How how first of all did your was your home affected in these Merrimack valley explosions earlier this year? Yes. It was. Fortunately, we didn't have a fire, but we ended up losing all our gas appliances that had to be at being replaced. Okay. And so so what's your thought today? Several months later. I mean, I guess just if any executives out there listening, it would probably be a lot cheaper to replace lines ahead of time, then do have to place everyone's gas appliances. I mean. It was sows of dollars that they have plenty of gas has reimbursed us, that's the one thing. They've they've done. Very well, I would say that on top of that. But it it would be cheaper along run to get it done before an accident. Right. Well, Jeff, thank you so much for your call, Gregory Corti. Let me turn back to you. You've been listening along here patiently at our appreciation that very much. But wh what did you hear from Christina same's there? I mean, it sounds like they're working hard to get a document out for new set of best practices in the industry. But they're also still immediate needs. And things that could be done which I heard her try to answer by talking us through the complexities that come along with even just laying down new pipeline is your your thoughts on ISIS. You've been reporting on all this for some time absolutely in the irony is that Columbia gas was in the process of trying to replace some of this dangerous old pipe when the most dangerous thing that possible. We could have happened happened in. So. Yeah, anytime you you dig up these streets and start to work with these types. There's a danger there, but Christine was absolutely correct. I mean, there are a lot of pressures that we're hearing from from some of your, callers, and and some of the the messages you've gotten, you know, that this is, you know, this these are investor owned utilities, and why don't they pay for it? Well, ultimately, you're paying for it as a consumer. And so there's been a culture in many states where they have a consumer an office, a consumer advocate whose job it is to go to the public utilities commission and say we can't, you know, people on a fixed income can't really afford the increased rates that would come with this pipeline replacement plan. I think now with the Massachusetts. And since I think, it's there's some national attention to this. You know, the utility is going to have to be a little bit more creative in terms of how they finance replacement plans. But is, you know, Joe from from Newark, Ohio was talking in earlier caller, you know, there's a there's a labor. You here too. And and so utilities, very often contractors workout because it's cheaper to do it that way. And who knows we don't know yet. What the final verdict is. But that may have also been a factor in what happened in Massachusetts well care blessing. I'm thinking of all those people still in the Mary Mack valley who would probably say so what I mean, how many of these this scale of explosions. Do we have to have before ratepayers are willing to pay more before states are willing to step up to accelerate the permitting or whatever needs to be done to to lay down? These new thousands of miles of pipeline. Chris Cynthia quarter min was telling us that they're still many thousands of of even remains that need to be replaced. It just it seems like I get I get the level of complication in the overlapping areas of responsibility. But how much can the system tolerate before? We just need to do. What needs to be done? Right. I mean, yet, I think one of the things that probably has been most under reported given this around this particular incident is the psychological impact. It's had on all of these people who definitely are thinking. Well, so what you know, Laignel or Leno Ron died a woman. Shakira Figueroa severely injured and is now suing Columbia gas. Not to mention, you know, dozens of other people who are hurt, you know, just hundreds of properties that were destroyed and the ultimate cost of this is, you know, enormous. So yeah, I I'm not sure what the answer is. Because I understand all those complexities. But obviously if something as simple as the blueprint for how to do a replacement is this incorrect to cause an issue of this magnet? Chewed then something has to change. Well, then hopefully, what Christina saying was was telling us about the new documentation, they're trying to come out with dealing with these kinds of issues might at least get us a few steps down the road to improvements there. Let me sneak in one last call here. Kevin is calling from Louisville Kentucky, you're on the air. Kevin. Yes. Hi. I was calling to comment on the seemingly long time lag between when an incident happens somewhere such a same Brenno congressman DOT issue some mandate for change, and they pass it on the films that for for taking action and then films. It seems like this is the cycle where films will float some ideas on impending regulation, and and then the industry is is given just forever. It seems like to respond to counter into inevitably resist. So it just seems like fem says not very responsive to to the need for change. We'll Kevin thank you so much for your call and Cynthia coordination. Let me turn back to you here. I want to just add to Kevin's thought with a quote from Gregory's story where he's quoting Senator. Ed Markey is saying what industries attempt to accomplish this to create. A regulatory black hole where neither federal or state regulators have clear supervisory responsibility. And that's what's happening here. And it Senator Markey says going forward just can't let pipeline companies regulate themselves. What do you think? Oh, I certainly agree with that. And I also agree with your caller about the amount of time. It takes to get a rule from being written into the books. It was a personal frustration of mine as the head of the administration there. There is one point that I think everybody needs to think about here in terms of resources one. Two points. Actually, we decided about thirty seconds. So okay. The point is this in order to put out a new rule. You have to have proof that it will benefit the people as much as it will cost the cost of some of these rules are in the billions of dollars in all these although these incidents or horrible the way the government works. You cannot come up with enough benefit to offset the cost, unfortunately, and it often takes a long time to get things done. Interesting. We'll Cynthia quarter min she was the top administrator of the US pipeline and hazardous materials Safety Administration from two thousand nine to two thousand fourteen thank you so much for joining us today. And cure blessing reporter at the Lawrence eagle Tribune. Thank you so much for being with us in the studio today. Thank you for having been Gregory Corti national correspondent for USA today. His big story on this pipeline peril. Natural gas explosions reveal silent danger lurking in old cast iron pipes have a link to that at all point radio dot org. Gregory, thank you. So very much for your reporting and for being with us on the program. Thanks for him me on mega I'm making a chocolate bar. This is on point. So about the time that he begins putting the duct tape on. He says this is a robbery. Last seen a new podcast from WB warr in the Boston Globe investigates, the largest unsolved art heist in history. 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