City Council Passes Bills to Tighten Gas Safety Rules
As a response to two deadly gas explosions that occurred in February 2016 in the East Village and March 2014 in East Harlem, the City Council recently passed a package of bills to tighten gas safety rules at city buildings.
The 2014 East Harlem explosion leveled two apartment buildings, killed eight people, injured at least 70 others, and displaced 100 families. The Public Service Commission, in its 20-month investigation of the deadly blast, found Con Ed failed to properly install a gas pipe leading to the building and failed to call for Fire Department backup after it received two reports of gas odors.
The February 2016 explosion killed two people and leveled five buildings. The building owners, in a rush to begin renting apartments in the newly renovated building, opted to run gas lines through flexible plastic hoses from the basement of the building, where gas lines were legally installed for the sushi restaurant on the first floor, to the apartments. The move was illegal, as Con Edison hadn’t yet approved the installation of gas meters for residential units in the building.
The recently passed bills are designed to increase inspections and promote gas safety throughout the city and are awaiting the mayor’s signature. The bills include measures that will require more rigorous and frequent inspections, better sharing of information between landlords and tenants regarding gas safety, more communication between building owners and the DOB regarding shut-offs, the installation of gas alarms, and the creation of annual reports on the city’s gas infrastructure. Here’s a list of the bills:
Int. 1100. This bill would require the DOB to develop or adopt a standard for natural gas detectors after an industry standard has been developed. The legislation also requires the installation of natural gas detectors that comply with such standards in all multiple dwellings.
Int. 1098. This bill would require that gas corporations report to an agency or office designated by the mayor annually on asset conditions, planned infrastructure projects, and investment priorities. Further, such corporations would be required to meet annually with such agency or office designated by the mayor, the speaker of the City Council, and the mayor to discuss the information contained in such report and related gas safety issues.
Int. 1101. This bill would create a temporary period where fines for improper fuel gas installations in buildings would be waived provided that the building owner responsible for such installations brings such installations into full compliance with the building code and other applicable laws during the temporary waiver period.
Int. 1102. This bill would classify violations relating to: (1) supplying or installing gas without a permit; (2) operating an altered or newly installed gas piping system without first notifying the utility company; and (3) operating an altered or newly installed gas piping system without first completing a compliance inspection as “immediately hazardous.”
Int. 1090. This bill would require owners to instruct their tenants to call 911 and their gas service providers, prior to informing such owners, when a gas leak is suspected.
Int. 1094. This bill would require an agency or office designated by the mayor to identify a set of factors related to natural gas violations that risk the safety of residential and commercial buildings. The bill would also require this designated agency to submit a report to the council on how such risk factors have been used to target enforcement of laws and rules relating to the delivery by pipe or usage of gas in residential and commercial buildings and the efficacy of such targeted enforcement.
Int. 1093. This bill would require gas service operators and owners to notify the DOB within 24 hours when gas service is shut-off or not restored due to safety concerns.
Int. 1079. This bill requires that the final inspection of gas piping systems be performed by the DOB.
Int. 1088. This bill would require that, starting Jan. 1, 2019, owners of buildings with gas piping systems have such systems periodically inspected. Under this bill, exposed portions of gas systems would be inspected every five years.