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How Dangerous are Underground Natural Gas Storage Wells?

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Today we released a study that shows that 1 in 5 active underground natural gas storage wells in the USA could be vulnerable to catastrophic accidents, such as the massive methane leak we saw in Alino Canyon, CA—the largest single accidental release of greenhouse gases in U.S. history. The 118-day leak resulted in the evacuation of 5,790 households and has raised health concerns for nearby residents due to potential exposures to methane and benzene.

Published today in Environmental Research Letters, our Climate, Energy, and Health team—lead by Post Doctoral fellow Drew Michanowicz—identified more than 14,000 UGS wells in 29 states, using regulatory data. Our team says that the active wells that are most likely to leak are the estimated 210 repurposed wells constructed prior to 1917 before improved cementing practices were utilized. The majority of repurposed UGS wells (88%) are located in OH, MI, PA, NY, and WV.

Other Center authors include Jonathan Buonocore, Program Leader, Climate, Energy, and Health; Sebastian Rowland, a Master's candidate at Harvard Chan School; and Ari Bernstein, the Center's Associate Director.

Through this study, they are furthering the Center’s mission to equip change-makers with the evidence they need to act now to protect our safety, health, and environment.

We invite you to read the study and some of its early media coverage:

Aaron Bernstein, MD, MPH

Aaron Bernstein is the Interim Director of The Center for Climate, Health, and the Global Environment, a pediatrician at Boston Children’s Hospital, and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics.

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