The state Department of Public Utilities lifted the moratorium on gas work by National Grid Wednesday morning, allowing workers to once again perform routine installations and upkeep.
The state says they hope this will help push construction projects forward, after being halted by the moratorium for months.
Hundreds of construction projects been on hold since the ban was imposed on Oct. 8. It prohibited the energy provider from doing anything but emergency services-including install new gas line connections.
Without access to heat, developers have been unable to complete their projects. But as the NBC10 Boston Investigators learned, this latest move may not be the end to what has been a chaotic turn of events at National Grid.
The utility company is still embroiled in a months-long labor dispute, which includes an intensely-protested worker lockout. Begging the question- will there be enough bodies to get the work done?
Tamara Small certainly hopes so.
“They’ve never seen anything like it, Small said. “Development has come to a standstill.”
She heads a commercial development association called NAIOP, and says that while the natural gas crisis has been alarming contractors for months, the situation grows more dire as winter quickly approaches.
“They are at risk of pipes freezing, can’t use sprinklers,” Small said. “You have insurance issues, incredibly high additional costs.”
John Buonopane and Joe Kirylo, presidents of USW Local 12012 and 12003 issued a statement regarding the locked out gas workers.
"Governor Baker has put National Grid's interests ahead of the safety of the families and businesses in Massachusetts," the statement read in part. "The moratorium on new natural gas connections is the result of a very real worry that less experienced, less trained gas workers will endanger homes, businesses and streets because they are not capable of doing this work safely while National Grid continues its lockout of 1,250 experienced gas workers."
We asked National Grid when developers can expect work to start on gas line connections, but a spokesperson said that is still unclear at this point. They are still waiting on further clarification from DPU.
And while National Grid may still need more details, DPU issued a set of requirements in their moratorium lift.
They mandated that all safety-sensitive work must be reviewed by an engineer, with some work requiring oversight by a supervisor.
DPU also required that National Grid report the number of inspectors at pipeline jobs every day. And if the power supplier doesn’t follow these guidelines, they could face up to $2,000,000 in fines.
Tamara Small says that at this point there could be close to a two-year backlog of projects waiting for gas connections and that whatever happens, it has to happen fast.
“Whatever’s required we think needs to happen so these projects happen,” she said.
For more on what this natural gas crisis means for developers and first responders, tune in to NBC10 Boston Thursday at 11 p.m.