1. Requiring registration and background checks for all gun sales in Massachusetts; 2. Bringing the Commonwealth into compliance with the Federal NICS background check system while protecting mental health counseling privacy; 3. Giving police chiefs discretion in issuing rifle and shotgun licenses (the NRA’s chief objection to the bill); 4. Advancing suicide awareness and prevention in the Commonwealth through a multifaceted approach; and 5. Collecting trace data so we know the origin of guns used in crimes or suicide. Our thanks to all JALSA members who worked these many months. A very special shout out to JALSA Board Member Janet Goldenberg, who served as coordinator of the Coalition, and brought her considerable legal acumen to the task. Thank you, also, to all of the Jewish congregations which signed on as members of the Coalition — Temple Beth Elohim Congregants to Prevent Gun Violence of Wellesley; Temple Emunah of Lexington, Temple Isaiah Social Action Committee of Lexington, and the Gun Violence Action Team of Temple Israel of Boston, which put into action Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel’s directive to “pray with our feet.” Special thanks to the Jewish Community Relations Council (JCRC) of Greater Boston who dedicated considerable time to this effort and to the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization (GBIO) who helped bring the important interfaith participation and voice. Thanks to the JALSA staff who brought all of their skills to this important work. JALSA’s office served as the hub for making phone calls all over the state to constituents in key legislative districts, the repository for postcards from nearly every city and town in Massachusetts, and the central spot for meeting and strategizing throughout this campaign. Over the past 18 months, nearly every JALSA staff member and intern played an important role in making sure this legislation got enacted. Much appreciation to Speaker DeLeo who made gun legislation a major priority for this legislative session, and we thank all the legislators who helped the successful passage of a strong bill. We look forward to working with you, our JALSA members and supporters, on many more legislative victories, in the pursuit of justice. Regards, Sheila Decter
A blueprint to speed repairs to thousands of leaks in natural gas pipelines across the state — reducing the threat of explosions and eventually saving consumers millions of dollars — will be unveiled Monday in Springfield.
The effort, authorized by recently passed legislation, creates a uniform system that classifies the severity of leaks and sets a timeline for their repair based on the risks. It also allows utilities to more quickly recover the costs of repairs from customers in the form of higher rates.
Those repairs could add an estimated $1 to $2 a month to the average gas bill, industry officials say. But over the longer term, Massachusetts customers could save tens of millions of dollars a year once all gas leaks are repaired. That’s because they will no longer have to pay for gas lost to those leaks.
Local utilities respond to tens of thousands of calls about potential gas leaks each year and reported more than 25,000 leaks to regulators at the end of September.
“As this flammable gas travels under our feet in often archaic pipes, I’m thrilled we are compelling gas companies to track their known leaks in a more transparent and uniform way,” said state Representative Lori Ehrlich, a Democrat from Marblehead who has long pushed to repair gas leaks. “The stakes are too high.”
Natural gas explosions, including one in April that injured 11 people in Dorchester, have called attention to the problem, but the issue has gathered momentum as researchers have quantified the amount of gas lost from thousands of small leaks in aging pipelines, and the costs — to customers and the environment.
A federal study commissioned by Senator Edward J. Markey, a Malden Democrat, shows that in Massachusetts alone, natural gas consumers paid up to $1.5 billion from 2000 to 2011 for gas that never made it to them because of leaks. In addition, natural gas used to heat homes is mostly methane, a potent greenhouse gas that contributes to climate change.
Several legislators filed gas leak bills this session. Industry and environmentalists worked with local political leaders to craft a compromise version passed by the Legislature and approved by Patrick on June 26. The law also requires utilities to fix all but the least hazardous of leaks whenever road construction projects expose a pipeline and to give priority to leaks within 50 feet of a school.
Earlier versions of the bill went further, requiring, for instance, that all leaks be repaired during road construction and giving priority to places of public assembly, such as churches and hospitals, not just schools.
Despite the changes, lawmakers said it achieves most of their goals. State Representative John D. Keenan, a Salem Democrat who also filed a gas leaks repair bill, called the new law a “great success.”
Utilities said the law not only allows them to repair leaks faster and recover costs in a timely manner but also has provisions that will allow them to bring natural gas service to more Massachusetts residents. Natural gas in recent years has been significantly cheaper than heating oil.
“This will allow us to accelerate the replacement of aging infrastructure,” said Thomas M. Kiley, chief executive of the Northeast Gas Association, a Needham-based industry group that represents gas utilities. “The bottom line is that there are going to be less leaks going forward.”
On Monday, Patrick will join state officials for an event publicizing the law in Springfield, where a natural gas explosion leveled a club in 2012 and injured more than a dozen. The State Fire Marshal said a worker from Columbia Gas of Massachusetts accidentally punctured a high pressure gas line at the foundation of the building while investigating a gas odor.
Markey is pushing two bills at the federal level. One, similar to the Massachusetts law, aims to revamp pipeline development and repair policies to address the biggest leaks first while making it easier for utilities to recover their costs. The other would create a program to help finance such projects with federal money and matching funds from states.
Markey said the new state law is a precursor to his national plan. “Massachusetts is yet again leading the way for the nation on energy and climate change,” he said.
Related: Map: Gas leaks in eastern Mass.
The following (from the Bostonglobe.com) presents information on the legislation that has been passed.Lawmakers agree on deal to tighten Mass. gun laws; By David Scharfenberg and Michael Levenson;| Globe Staff July 31, 2014 “George N. Peterson Jr., a Grafton Republican, held up a firearms identification card application while testifying during a hearing on gun rights laws at the Statehouse in Boston, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. George N. Peterson Jr., a Grafton Republican, held up a firearms identification card application while testifying during a hearing on gun rights laws at the Statehouse in Boston, Tuesday, June 3, 2014. Massachusetts House and Senate negotiators reached an agreement Wednesday night on legislation that would tighten what are already some of the most restrictive gun laws in the country. Police departments could go to court to keep rifles and shotguns out of the hands of people they deem dangerous under a compromise worked out by the lawmakers. The new legislation, crafted in response to the 2012 school massacre in Newtown, Conn., would also require the state to join a national database for criminal and mental health background checks and mandate that schools develop plans for students’ mental health needs. “My sense is there should be enough votes to pass it in both houses,” said Representative George N. Peterson Jr., a Grafton Republican who served on the conference committee that worked out the agreement. With lawmakers racing to meet the Thursday deadline for passing legislation this session, House and Senate negotiators also reached agreement to establish a sales tax holiday on Aug. 16 and 17 and came to a deal on a separate bill to strengthen the state’s domestic violence law. Governor Deval Patrick alluded to the time crunch Wednesday when he signed into law one of the major bills that has reached his desk, a measure aimed at curbing harassment outside abortion clinics. “There’s a lot of business before the Legislature, which is why I am going to keep my comments brief, and let you all get back to work,” he said, prompting chuckles from House and Senate members who were bracing for late-night sessions. The conflict between the two chambers on the gun bill centered on a provision in the original House bill that gave police broad discretion to deny a license for a shotgun or rifle to anyone they deem unsuitable. Existing law gives police that discretion to deny a handgun permit. “Obviously, the suitability issue was the main sticking point,” said Representative Ronald Mariano, a Quincy Democrat who served on the conference committee. Hunters and civil liberties groups alike believed the House provision was overreaching. The Senate voted two weeks ago to strip it out of its version of the gun bill. That created the main flashpoint between the two chambers. And while negotiators ultimately agreed to give the police new powers, they limited those powers. Under the legislation, a police department that aims to deny, suspend, or revoke a shotgun or rifle license could not do so unilaterally. It must file a petition in court, with a written notice explaining the reasons. The court must base its decision, under the law, on “reliable, articulable, and credible information” that suggests one “could potentially create a risk to public safety.” Advocates on both sides of the bill were still digesting the latest version of the legislation Wednesday night. Jim Wallace, executive director of the Gun Owners Action League, said that at first glance the bill looked promising. “It looks pretty good,” he said. “I’m really hoping it’s something we can support.” John Rosenthal, founder of Stop Handgun Violence, said he was disappointed the agreement did not give chiefs the unilateral authority to deny permits for rifles and shotguns, but called the bill a step forward nonetheless. “It’s certainly a burden on chiefs who are simply trying to save lives, but it’s a compromise,” Rosenthal said. “It does give police chiefs discretion, and the check and balance with the court, which is far better than nothing.” …(sic…remaining sections of article not related to the gun legislation)