On July 18, 2008, 66-year-old Richard Haas of Teaneck, New Jersey, was killed when his house blew up from a natural gas explosion. Public Service Electric & Gas Co. has just agreed to pay a $200,000 fine to settle claims that its employees did not adequately respond to reports of a gas odor in the neighborhood.
Last September, an entire neighborhood in San Bruno, California, was destroyed by a natural gas explosion.
On February 10 of this year, five people were killed when a block of row houses was destroyed by a natural gas explosion. An investigation is trying to determine if an 83-year-old gas main is the culprit.
The following day, on February 11, a natural gas blast near Haverton, Ohio was heard up to 25 miles away.
Here in New Jersey's Pascack Valley, an area whose main high-profile citizens are author Mary Higgins Clark, Green Bay Packers defensive lineman B.J. Raji, and wingnut tool and all-around asshole James O'Keefe, there is a "commercial district" that runs for three traffic lights in one of the towns in the valley. Both ends of this district have seen the road torn up by the aforementioned Public Service Electric & Gas in recent weeks, the most recent one on February 3, with another one nearby not long before. A work colleague of mine lives near one of these road closures, and she says that they've been digging up that section of road over and over again, trying to find a gas leak. One night last week I was at the supermarket at the local strip mall and the odor of gas was so small that it seemed one person lighting a cigarette could blow up the whole town.
Here at Casa la Brilliant, we have oil heat. I'm paying over $3.00/gallon for it this year, and I paid $200 at the start of the season for the privilege of this price cap. But barring geothermal heating, I wouldn't have it any other way. People are always telling me that PSE&G will put in a gas line into our house, that gas heat is so much cheaper. I don't care. I do not want a gas line running into this house. I don't want pilot lights that can go out. I don't want to worry about the carbon monoxide from natural gas combustion. I want the nice man from the oil company to come out every year, service the burner, and tell me when the heat exchanger goes and it's time to replace it.
Glenn Beck is out there ranting about a caliphate. In Arizona, they want to deny emergency care to undocumented immigrants. There are places in America where celebrating Egyptians are putting fear into the hearts of people who equate all swarthy faces with the 9/11 terrorists. They're only one step removed from duct tape and plastic sheeting. We put our kids in car seats until they're in sixth grade. They can't go ride a bike without body armor. Kids who live two blocks from school get driven to school because their parents are terrified of child-snatchers. We live in a constant state of fear, and yet many of these same people crank up the thermostat or turn on the burner's nice blue flame and never stop to think about how that's coming in, or what happens when the lines that bring it into the house begin to corrode.
Infrastructure isn't just about high-speed trains, or even about fixing potholes. Many of the pipelines carrying natural gas in this country are over 50 years old. We're starting to see what happens when maintenance is deferred indefinitely. And no, Jesus doesn't take care of it.