In 2009, a gas leak in Wayne Sargent's home caused an explosion that would change his life forever.
The house at 76 Eastern Ave. that had been in the Gloucester resident's family for multiple generations and his dog, Penny, were gone.
"Every time I think of it, my heart cracks," Sargent said in a July 8, 2015, Times article. "It was a day in hell for me. I'm still recovering, still healing."
Roughly ten years later, the Merrimack Valley gas explosions killed one and forced 30,000 people to evacuate their homes — a day of tragedy and loss remembered across the state.
With these two events in the forefront of their minds, Gloucester city councilors unanimously voted on a resolution last week that would support solving the problems associated with natural gas distribution in the Commonwealth.
The resolution clarifies that the City Council is in favor of supporting the FUTURE Act, also known as the "Act for Utility Transition to Using Renewable Energy." The act would hold companies accountable as they look for options to expand their use of renewable energy sources.
The municipalities of Arlington, Boston, Brookline, Cambridge, Concord, Hopkinton, Lexington, Lincoln, Newton, Somerville, Wellesley, Weston and Worcester have also passed resolutions supportive of the FUTURE Act.
The city's support of the act comes with the knowledge of its own old natural gas infrastructure.
The resolution lists that at the end of 2018, there were 44 unrepaired gas leaks beneath city streets leaking methane into the air.
In 2019, National Grid reported that there were approximately 74 unrepaired gas leaks in the city of Gloucester.
"As we have seen from the devastating tolls this took on the Merrimack Valley in 2019, we as a community do not want the same thing to happen here," Councilor at-Large Jennifer Holmgren wrote on her Facebook page.
According to the city's resolution, if the FUTURE Act is passed by the Legislature it will:
Empower municipalities to have a stronger, safer, more transparent working relationship with public utilities by improving coordination for gas leak repair, mandating that utilities notify the local fire chief and police department within an hour of finding a dangerous leak, requiring the gas companies and the Department of Public Utilities to share maps, costs, and plans with the municipalities and the public, and requiring that gas companies to be audited annually for safety, performance, and leak reports.
Allow individuals and municipalities to claim property damage from gas leaks, including damage to trees.
Mandate that gas leaks within a certain distance of a school zone or building, or within the root zone be fixed within 6 months.
Authorize municipalities to procure local or district energy services and to establish an energy microgrid.
"As a Massachusetts Certified Green Community, Gloucester receives a significant amount of state funding for pursuing initiatives which continue to lower our carbon footprint," Holmgren added. "In my eyes, this resolution makes the most sense."
Staff writer Taylor Ann Bradford can be reached at 978-675-2705 or firstname.lastname@example.org.