UPDATE: On December 6, 2016, Mayor Bill de Blasio signed the package of bills to increase gas safety in New York City. “Gas safety is important for all New Yorkers, and this legislative package will resolve numerous regulatory oversights,” said the Mayor. “These reforms will ensure both property owners and utility companies are accountable for keeping buildings safe.”
“In a relatively short time we’ve seen a number of gas explosions take place in the City; many of them due to failures to report and handle gas leaks properly. To ensure the well-being of New Yorkers and first responders, it’s vital we pass legislation that will implement and enforce a system of safety procedures followed by all building owners and plumbers,” said Council Member Jumaane Williams, Chair of the Committee on Housing and Buildings.
“I was shocked to learn that the City has required inspections for boilers, elevators, water tanks, water recycling systems, and sprinklers, but until now, no inspections for gas piping systems have been required. I am proud to be the lead sponsor of Intro 1088-A, which will ensure proper monitoring of gas piping systems to prevent future gas related incidents,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal.
City Council takes steps to address fatal gas explosions with new regulatory measures. On November 16, 2016, the City Council passed a package of bills in the hope of preventing ruinous and fatal gas explosions in the City. There have been several major gas-related explosions in New York City over the past three years.
One was the explosion and collapse of two buildings at 1644–1646 Park Avenue in East Harlem on March 12, 2014, which resulted in the death of eight persons and more than 50 injured. A National Transportation Safety Board investigation found that the explosion would not have occurred if the gas pipes had been welded properly.
Another gas line exploded on March 26, 2015, at 121 Second Avenue in the East Village which resulted in the death of two persons and 22 injured. The resulting fire destroyed three buildings. Yet another gas explosion occurred on the night of August 21, 2015, at John F. Kennedy High School which resulted in three injuries. The cause of the fire was a worker who tested for a gas leak by using a match.
The compliment of laws would create a broad regulatory system for the installation and maintenance of gas pipes in the City. Introduction No. 0738-A, effective 2020, would require persons working on gas piping to be licensed master plumbers or to hold a gas qualification. At a public hearing earlier this year Council Member Mark Levine, who co-sponsored Introduction No. 0738-A, balked at the current system which only requires the master plumber of the business and not the journeymen, who actually do the work, to have a certification to work on gas lines. “If you’re working on a water line or a compressed air line and something goes wrong, there could be a big mess but no one is going to die. If you’re working on a gas line and something goes wrong, the effects can be fatal as we have seen to tragic effect far, far too many times.”
Other proposed legislation would require building owners to have gas piping systems periodically inspected, instruct tenants on how to react to suspected gas leaks and install natural gas detectors in all multiple dwellings.
The package of bills received unanimous support from the City Council, passing on a vote of 50-0. The bills were sent to Mayor de Blasio for his approval.
CC: Introductions 0738-2015, 1079-2016, 1088-2016, 1090-2016, 1093-2016, 1094-2016, 1098-2016, 1100-2016, 1101-2016, 1102-2016 (Nov. 17, 2016).
By: Jonathon Sizemore (Jonathon is the CityLaw Fellow and a New York Law School Graduate, Class of 2016).