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December 17, 2017

DND holds off infra dev’t in Pag-Asa

The defense department is holding off repairs and other planned infrastructure projects on Pag-Asa Island, one of seven islets and two reefs occupied by Filipino troops in the disputed Spratly Islands.

Earlier, Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario pointed out that the maintenance and repair of facilities in Pag-Asa Island are not covered by the Declaration of Conduct (DOC) of parties involved in the West Philippine Sea territorial disputes.

“Repair and maintenance is okay but before we can move construction materials to Pag-Asa, we have to build a port and doing so could change the landscape. It’s not allowed in the DOC,” Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said in reference to earlier approved plans for the repair of Rancudo airfield in the island.

Rancudo airfield is a key supply line for the troops and 200 civilian residents.

Pag-Asa Island is the seat of Kalayaan town of Palawan that has jurisdiction over the Philipine-held territory in the disputed region, claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei.

“We cannot repair the (airfield) because the construction materials will be coming from outside. Getting inside, if it will be by aircraft it will be very expensive and very impractical. So you have to bring in the boat but the boat cannot come in because there is no pier,” Gazmin said.

Security officials have been calling on the government to start immediate repairs of the Philippine facilities in the region, not necessarily to antagonize China and other claimant-countries, but to improve the morale and welfare of troops manning the outposts.

One security official noted that it is only the Philippines that is not doing anything to improve living conditions of the troops manning the outposts located in the middle of nowhere.

He said this is contrast to what China, Vietnam and Taiwan are doing in their respective controlled areas.

Marines are deployed on a three-month rotation basis in the disputed region but this is now being threatened by the increasing presence of Chinese warships and coast guard vessels in the area.

Ayungin Shoal, located within the country’s 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone (EEZ), is being guarded by Marines on board a grounded Navy supply ship, the BRP Sierra Madre.

China, despite being a party of the DOC signed in 2000, has become very aggressive in laying its maritime claim to almost the entire South China Sea, building artificial islets on four reefs despite protests by the Philippine government.

Six- and three-story buildings, as well as ports, helipads, runway with gun implacement, are now sprouting out from these Chinese-built and controlled artificial islets formerly known as Kennar Reef, Calderon Reef and Burgos Reef by Manila.

Aside from completing its reclamation of these former obscure West Philippine Sea areas, Beijing is also developing further the Panganiban or Mischief Reef, an area located within the territorial waters of Palawan.

‘Serious concern’

China’s Foreign Ministry expressed serious concern yesterday after the Philippines said it would resume repair and reconstruction works on disputed islands in the South China Sea, saying Manila was infringing on Chinese sovereignty.

The Philippines had halted activities last year over concerns about the effect on an international arbitration complaint filed against China.

Manila called on all countries last October to stop construction work on small islands and reefs in the South China Sea, most of which is claimed by China.

China itself is undertaking massive reclamation works in the area, while Taiwan, Malaysia and Vietnam have also been improving their facilities.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said it was “seriously concerned” by the remarks of Secretary Del Rosario.

“On the one hand the Philippines makes unreasonable criticism about China’s normal building activities on its own isles, and on the other announces it will resume repairs on an airport, runway and other illegal constructions on China’s Spratly Islands, which it illegally occupies,” Hua said.

“This is not only a series infringement of China’s sovereignty, but it also exposes the Philippines’ hypocrisy,” she told a daily news briefing, calling on the Philippines to withdraw from the islands.

The Philippine foreign ministry said the works, including repairs to an airstrip, did not violate an informal code of conduct in the South China Sea because they would not alter the status quo in the disputed area. The 2002 code was signed by China and 10 Southeast Asian states in Phnom Penh.

In 2013, Manila filed an arbitration case at The Hague questioning the maritime boundaries claimed by Beijing. Del Rosario said Manila expects a decision in February next year. ; – With Reuters

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DND holds off infra dev’t in Pag-Asa

Pope arrives in Sri Lanka and backs search for wartime truth

COLOMBO, Sri Lanka (AP) — Pope Francis brought calls for reconciliation as well as justice as he arrived Tuesday in Sri Lanka at the start of a weeklong Asian tour, saying the island nation can’t fully heal from a quarter-century of ethnic civil war without pursuing the truth about abuses that were committed.

In a show of ethnic coexistence, the pope’s welcoming ceremony at Colombo’s airport featured traditional dancers and drummers from both majority Sinhalese and minority Tamil ethnic groups, as well as a children’s choir serenading him in both of Sri Lanka’s languages — as well as Italian and English.

With 40 elephants dressed in colorful costumes lining the airport road behind him, Francis said that finding true peace after so much bloodshed “can only be done by overcoming evil with good, and by cultivating those virtues which foster reconciliation, solidarity and peace.”

He didn’t specifically mention Sri Lanka’s refusal to cooperate with a U.N. investigation into alleged war crimes committed in the final months of the war. But he said: “The process of healing also needs to include the pursuit of truth, not for the sake of opening old wounds, but rather as a necessary means of promoting justice, healing and unity.”

Tamil rebels fought a 25-year civil war to demand an independent Tamil nation after decades of perceived discrimination by governments dominated by the Sinhalese majority. U.N. estimates say 80,000 to 100,000 people were killed during the course of the war, which ended in 2009; other reports suggest the toll could be much higher.

Sri Lanka’s new president, Maithripala Sirisena, has promised to launch a domestic inquiry into wartime abuses, but he has also pledged to protect everyone who contributed to the defeat of Tamil Tiger separatists from international legal action.

A 2011 U.N. report said up to 40,000 ethnic Tamil civilians may have been killed in the last months of the civil war, and accused both sides of serious human rights violations. It said the government was suspected of deliberately shelling civilians and hospitals and preventing food and medicine from getting to civilians trapped in the war zone. The rebels were accused of recruiting child soldiers and holding civilians as human shields and firing from among them.

A few months after the U.N. report was released, the government of longtime President Mahinda Rajapaksa released its own Lessons Learnt and Reconciliation Commission findings, which concluded that Sri Lanka’s military didn’t intentionally target civilians at the end of the war and that ethnic rebels routinely violated international humanitarian law.

Sirisena, who was sworn in Friday after an election upset, told Francis in the airport welcome ceremony that his government aims to promote “peace and friendship among our people after overcoming a cruel terrorist conflict.”

“We are a people who believe in religious tolerance and coexistence based on our centuries-old heritage,” he said.

Tamils, however, say they are still discriminated against, and human rights activists say the government isn’t serious about probing rights abuses.

In his speech, Francis said it wasn’t enough for the government to build infrastructure and meet material needs of Sri Lanka’s people. “The great work of rebuilding,” he said, must embrace “promoting human dignity, respect for human rights and the full inclusion of each member of society.”

Thousands of people lined Francis’ 28-kilometer (17-mile) route in from the airport, which he traveled entirely in his open-topped popemobile. While some who had staked out positions since dawn were frustrated that he sped past so quickly, Francis took so long greeting well-wishers that he canceled a meeting with Sri Lanka’s bishops in the afternoon after falling more than an hour behind schedule.

“This is like Jesus Christ himself coming to Sri Lanka!” marveled Ranjit Solis, 60, a retired engineer. He recalled that Pope Paul VI only spent two hours in Sri Lanka in 1970, while St. John Paul II spent a day in 1975. “The current pope is coming for three days! He serves the poor and is concerned about poor countries. It’s a great thing.”

Aside from the airport welcome ceremony, Francis’ other main event Tuesday was a meeting with representatives from Sri Lanka’s main religions.

Some 70 percent of Sri Lankans are Buddhist — most from the Sinhalese ethnic group. Another 13 percent are Hindu, most of them Tamil, and some 10 percent are Muslim. Catholics make up less than 7 percent of the island nation’s 20 million people, but the church counts both Sinhalese and Tamils as members and sees itself as a strong source for national unity.

Francis is expected to call for greater interfaith dialogue amid a surge in anti-Muslim violence by extremist Buddhists.

“It is a blessing and will be helpful for inter-religious friendship,” said Rev. Wimalananda, a young Buddhist monk, who was out on the street to welcome Francis.

Francis arrived just days after Rajapaksa was upset in an election he had called. The victor, Sirisena, had defected from the ruling party in November in a surprise move and won the election by capitalizing on Rajapaksa’s unpopularity among ethnic and religious minorities.

“This is a good opportunity to unify the country after a war and bring together a society divided with an election,” said another Francis watcher on the road in from the airport, Saman Priyankara. “It will be a strength to the new government at a time we are free from an autocracy and on a new path.”

On Wednesday, Francis will canonize Sri Lanka’s first saint, the Rev. Joseph Vaz, a 17th-century missionary from India who is credited with having revived the Catholic faith among both Sinhalese and Tamils amid persecution by Dutch colonial rulers, who were Calvinists.

Later in the day he flies into Tamil territory to pray at a shrine beloved by both Sinhalese and Tamil faithful.

On Thursday he heads to the Philippines, the largest Roman Catholic country in Asia and third-largest in the world, for the final leg of the journey.

There he’ll comfort victims of the devastating 2013 Typhoon Haiyan, which left more than 7,300 people dead or missing, displaced some 4 million and turned a huge densely populated region into a wasteland.

Millions of Filipinos are expected to turn out for his events, possibly surpassing the record 5 million who turned out for the last papal visit: St. John Paul II in 1995. Themes Francis is expected to raise are related to the family, poverty and the environment.

___

Associated Press Writer Krishan Francis contributed to this report.

___

Follow Nicole Winfield on Twitter at twitter.com/nwinfield

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Pope arrives in Sri Lanka and backs search for wartime truth

Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

OKUMA, Japan (AP) — More than three years into the massive cleanup of Japan’s tsunami-damaged nuclear power plant, only a tiny fraction of the workers are focused on key tasks such as preparing for the dismantling of the broken reactors and removing radioactive fuel rods.

Instead, nearly all the workers at the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant are devoted to an enormously distracting problem: a still-growing amount of contaminated water used to keep the damaged reactors from overheating. The amount has been swelled further by groundwater entering the reactor buildings.

Hundreds of huge blue and gray tanks to store the radioactive water, and buildings holding water treatment equipment are rapidly taking over the plant, where the cores of three reactors melted following a 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Workers were building more tanks during a visit to the complex Wednesday by foreign media, including The Associated Press.

“The contaminated water is a most pressing issue that we must tackle. There is no doubt about that,” said Akira Ono, head of the plant. “Our effort to mitigate the problem is at its peak now. Though I cannot say exactly when, I hope things start getting better when the measures start taking effect.”

The numbers tell the story.

___

6,000 WORKERS

Every day, about 6,000 workers pass through the guarded gate of the Fukushima Dai-ichi plant on the Pacific coast — two to three times more than when it was actually producing electricity.

On a recent work day, about 100 workers were dismantling a makeshift roof over one of the reactor buildings, and about a dozen others were removing fuel rods from a cooling pool. Most of the rest were dealing with the contaminated water, said Tatsuhiro Yamagishi, a spokesman for Tokyo Electric Power Co., or TEPCO, the utility that owns the plant.

The work threatens to exhaust the supply of workers for other tasks, since employees must stop working when they reach annual radiation exposure limits. Experts say it is crucial to reduce the amount and radioactivity of the contaminated water to decrease the risk of exposure to workers and the environmental impact before the decommissioning work gets closer to the highly contaminated core areas.

___

40 YEARS

The plant has six reactors, three of which were offline when disaster struck on March 11, 2011. A magnitude-9.0 earthquake triggered a huge tsunami which swept into the plant and knocked out its backup power and cooling systems, leading to meltdowns at the three active reactors.

Decommissioning and dismantling all six reactors is a delicate, time-consuming process that includes removing the melted fuel from a highly radioactive environment, as well as all the extra fuel rods, which sit in cooling pools at the top of the reactor buildings. Workers must determine the exact condition of the melted fuel debris and develop remote-controlled and radiation-resistant robotics to deal with it.

Troubles and delays in preparatory stages, including the water problem and additional measures needed to address environmental and health concerns in removing highly radioactive debris from atop reactor buildings that exploded during meltdowns, have pushed back schedules on the decommissioning roadmap. Recently, officials said the government and TEPCO plan to delay the planned start of fuel removal from Units 1 and 2 by about 5 years.

The process of decommissioning the four reactors is expected to take at least 40 years.

___

500,000 TONS

The flow of underground water is doubling the amount of contaminated water and spreading it to vast areas of the compound.

Exposure to the radioactive fuel contaminates the water used to cool the melted fuel from inside, and much of it leaks and pours into the basements of the reactors and turbines, and into maintenance trenches that extend to the Pacific Ocean. Plans to freeze some of the most toxic water inside the trench near the reactors have been delayed for at least 8 months due to technical challenges.

The plant reuses some of the contaminated water for cooling after partially treating it, but the additional groundwater creates a huge excess that must be pumped out.

Currently, more than 500,000 tons of radioactive water is being stored in nearly 1,000 large tanks which now cover large areas of the sprawling plant. After a series of leaks last year, the tanks are being replaced with costlier welded ones.

That amount dwarfs the 9,000 tons of contaminated water produced during the 1979 partial meltdown of the Three Mile Island nuclear plant in the United States. At Three Mile Island, it took 14 years for the water to evaporate, said Lake Barrett, a retired U.S. nuclear regulatory official who was part of the early mitigation team there and has visited the Fukushima plant.

“This is a much more complex, much more difficult water management problem,” Barrett said.

___

10 TRILLION YEN

An estimated 2 trillion yen ($18 billion) will be needed just for decontamination and other mitigation of the water problem. Altogether, the entire decommissioning process, including compensation for area residents, reportedly will cost about 10 trillion yen, or about $90 billion.

All this for a plant that will never produce a kilowatt of energy again.

About 500 workers are digging deep holes in preparation for a taxpayer-funded 32 billion yen ($290 million) underground “frozen wall” around four reactors and their turbine buildings to try to keep the contaminated water from seeping out.

TEPCO is developing systems to try to remove most radioactive elements from the water. One, known as ALPS, has been trouble-plagued, but utility officials hope to achieve its daily capacity of 2,000 tons when they enter full operation next month following a final inspection by regulators.

Officials hope to treat all contaminated water by the end of March, but that is far from certain.

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Japan's nuclear cleanup stymied by water woes

Retailers on Palm Jumeirah’s Golden Mile in Dubai stuck in four-year limbo

 Dozens of retailers intending to open outlets on Dubai’s Palm Jumeirah have been left in limbo as a four-year legal row rumbles on.

Now many are hoping that a much-anticipated decision from the Dubai World Tribunal could breathe fresh life into an empty strip of ghost shops along the island’s Golden Mile.

Supermarkets and restaurants are among retailers that have been waiting years to move in to the Golden Mile development on the trunk of the artificial island.

The Golden Mile, a joint venture between Kuwait’s IFA Hotels and Resorts and Istithmar, was launched in 2005 to feature residential apartments as well as retail and office space.

But the development has become embroiled in a convoluted legal row that hinges on whether Nakheel ever committed to acquiring the retail space along the strip.

Palm Jumeirah’s master developer Nakheel brought a lawsuit against Souq Residences at the Dubai World Tribunal in 2010. Souq Residences is a joint venture between Kuwait’s IFA Hotels and Resorts and the Dubai World subsidiary Istithmar.

IFA began signing leases on the Golden Mile in 2011 and a spokeswoman confirmed it continues to sign agreements, with three more currently under negotiation.

Currently, 27 retailers are waiting to open. They include the supermarket chain Waitrose, Beyond the Beach, Starbucks, the restaurant Wagamama, Mothercare, Pinkberry, Boots, Party Zone, Loft Fifth Avenue, N Style and Drs Nicolas and Asp Medical and Dental. They signed contracts with Souq Residences.

But separate legal proceedings under way at the Dubai World Tribunal as well as the Dubai International Arbitration Centre need to be resolved before they can move in.

While the master developer Nakheel plans to build a major mall in the centre of the island as well as more retail outlets on The Pointe, The Palm has experienced little retail development since the first residents started to move into their homes more than seven years ago.

“People there are looking for cafes, restaurants, supermarkets and salons,” said Jacob Hrayki, who started Loft Fifth Avenue Salons in 2008. He signed a contract for the space two years ago.

Steven Holbrook, the chief executive at retailers Al Boom Marine, signed a lease around four years ago.

“We would love to get in and hope the issue would be resolved soon, but if not it will be a shame.”

He hopes to get his deposit back if he is unable to open an outlet on the island.

Dr Elhami Nicolas, the founder of Drs Nicolas & Asp medical centres, which has six branches in Dubai, has paid a month’s deposit for an office space at the Golden Mile.

“We have many patients on the Palm,,” Dr Nicolas said. “We are still interested, but we have been waiting too for [the project] to materialise.”

Nakheel has no contractual agreement with these retailers, said a spokeswoman, referring to tenants who had signed leases on the development. “We suggest they follow up with whoever they signed their leasing agreement.”

The US$27.21 million lawsuit was brought by Nakheel against Souq Residences. The master developer paid Souq Residences Dh100m in 2008. Nakheel claims the purchase was eventually aborted but it has not been compensated for the payment it made. A lawyer representing Souq Residences declined to comment.

The first dispute before Dubai World Tribunal concerns whether Nakheel agreed to purchase retail space from Souq Residences on the Golden Mile development. This hinges on whether a document signed by the pair in 2008 was a binding contract.

According to court documents and another proceeding initiated by Souq in 2010, the company claims that the two companies signed a contract.

Nakheel’s Dh100m payment was part of that plan and seeks the balance of the purchase price less the Dh100m.

Nakheel denies the claim, saying it provided the amount as funding for Souq Residences. A second dispute concerned Souq’s request for compliance certificate from the master developer for buildings 5 and 6 at the Golden Mile. Without it, Souq could not obtain building completion certificates for them – preventing the company from handing over units to buyers. A trial in February ruled against Nakheel and it was ordered to issue the compliance certificates. It did do so, and Souq is completing the sale of residential units in buildings 5 and 6 of the Golden Mile.

The parties to the Dubai World Tribunal are still awaiting judgement on the remaining issues.

ssahoo@thenational.ae

 

Copyrights © 2014 Abu Dhabi Media Company, All rights reserved. Provided by SyndiGate Media Inc. (Syndigate.info).

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Retailers on Palm Jumeirah’s Golden Mile in Dubai stuck in four-year limbo

How Google Street View is Tackling Methane Leaks

Steven Hamburg, chief scientist at Environmental Defense Fund (EDF), contributed this article to Live Science’s Expert Voices: Op-Ed & Insights.

Throughout history, maps have played a critical role in shaping decisions — helping people determine where they are going and how to get there. Now, maps are defining a way to address methane leaks, a potent contributor to climate change. Environmental Defense Fund and Google Earth Outreach have just launched a series of maps that show methane leaks from natural gas pipelines under city streets in Boston, Indianapolis and Staten Island. The new tool has the power to greatly improve how cities and utilities can minimize methane emissions.

 

Why care about methane?

A recent tide of scientific studies, such as a recent study of emissions in Pennsylvania, have examined how methane — the primary component of natural gas — is escaping from the natural gas supply chain. Such research has made it clear how much that leakage is affecting global carbon dioxide levels.

One of natural gas’s potential benefits over other fossil fuels is that, when burned, it produces less carbon dioxide — half as much as coal — to yield the same amount of energy. If used wisely to rapidly displace dirty coal-power plants, for example, natural gas could help the country dramatically reduce overall greenhouse-gas emissions. 

Unburned, however, methane is 84 times more powerful as a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after it is released. While methane doesn’t linger as long in the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, it is initially far more devastating to the climate because of how effectively it absorbs heat. If too much methane escapes along the supply chain — anywhere between the well and the end user — it could postpone the climate benefits of fuel switching, a delay we can ill afford. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, roughly one-third of methane emissions in the United States come from the oil and gas industry, and one third of the warming we are currently experiencing comes from anthropogenically released methane in the atmosphere — addressing methane leakage in the natural gas supply chain is critical. 

With great data comes great responsibility

For our analysis of methane emissions from local distribution pipes, Google equipped three Street View cars with methane analyzers and drove through large portions of Boston, Staten Island and Indianapolis collecting methane concentration data, GPS data and wind speed and direction data every half second. Our science team, in partnership with Colorado State University (CSU) researchers, developed a first-of-its-kind algorithm to translate the patterns of concentration data collected by the Street View cars into methane-leak rates for individual leaks. These data and the accompanying maps are designed to help the public, utilities and regulators better understand the pattern and scale of urban methane leaks. 

For example, we observed one leak per mile of road driven in Boston and Staten Island, a borough of New York City. Depending on the size of those leaks, the climate impact over the next 20 years — for each leak — ranged from the equivalent of driving a car 100 miles every single day up to driving more than 9,000 miles every day. These data will allow utilities to better prioritize which leaks to repair or pipes to replace, enabling them to get rid of the larger leaks much faster than was possible before. 

Helping utilities help themselves 

The local utilities — like National Grid, the utility in both Boston and Staten Island, and Citizens in Indianapolis — helped validate the data and provided insight into where their repair efforts should be targeted. Leaks even larger than those we saw in our surveys are of the greatest public safety concern; but those leaks are usually identified and fixed quickly. Smaller leaks are monitored by the utilities, but can go unfixed for long periods of time, spewing significant amounts of climate pollutants into the atmosphere. The new methodologies developed to produce the maps hold the potential to benefit both public health (as leaks can sometimes trigger explosions) and the climate.  

In addition to providing a picture of leak rates across cities, these maps clearly show the value of investing in a modern natural-gas infrastructure. Older pipes made of cast iron and unprotected steel can corrode as they age, making them more vulnerable to leaks. Plastic pipes, which are used in newer systems, are more durable over time and leak much less. The 200-times-lower frequency of leaks in Indianapolis, versus Boston and Staten Island, clearly indicates the value of Indianapolis’s decision to upgrade to plastic pipes.  

Investing in newer infrastructure pays off three-fold: 

  • Minimize safety risks from explosions;
  • Climate benefits; 
  • Keeps marketable product out of the air and in the pipeline.

In the early 80s, the utility Citizens in Indianapolis made replacing the city’s aging pipelines a priority. Today, pipes vulnerable to corrosion make up only one percent of Indianapolis’s local distribution system, and leak rates there are congruently low. Our efforts found only five leaks in the pipelines examined — one leak for every 200 miles mapped. While Boston, where about half of the pipes are made of materials vulnerable to corrosion and have been in the ground for more than half a century, averaged roughly one leak per mile mapped.

EDF has focused on “finding the ways that work” for almost 50 years, and this collaborative mapping project is indicative of our commitment to tapping the power of science in pursuit of effective solutions. This project takes a major step toward providing local gas-distribution utilities and regulators the scientific tools to better understand methane leaks and should spur meaningful local efforts to reduce emissions of climate pollutants — with more opportunities for effective action. By continuing our collaborations with Google, CSU, local utilities and the public, we can broaden the scope of what we know, map more pollutants in more cities and spark changes to slow the planet’s warming. 

Follow all of the Expert Voices issues and debates — and become part of the discussion — on Facebook, Twitter and Google +. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the publisher. This version of the article was originally published on Live Science.

Copyright 2014 LiveScience, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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How Google Street View is Tackling Methane Leaks

Google's latest project: mapping small gas leaks in US cities

Google Street View cars outfitted with special sensors have identified hundreds of small but steady methane leaks lying beneath the streets in three US cities.

The specially equipped cars drove the streets of Boston, Staten Island, and Indianapolis sniffing out minor gas leaks for a pilot mapping project in conjunction with the New York-based Environmental Defense Fund and local utility companies. EDF released the findings online Wednesday, along with a set of interactive maps.

The leaks identified by this study do not represent a safety threat but do add up to a large volume of smog-inducing, greenhouse gas emissions, EDF chief scientist Steven Hamburg told reporters during a media briefing about the pilot program Wednesday.

Recommended: Think you know the odd effects of global climate change? Take our quiz.

While utilities are federally mandated to address large gas leaks that pose hazards to property and people, smaller, chronic leaks typically fall by the wayside until the pipes can be fully replaced, Mr. Hamburg said.

“This work creates an important tool for helping to understand where the largest of these leaks are and where the dollars that are being spent to modernize and upgrade gas systems can best be utilized,” Hamburg said.

National Grid, a utility company that operates pipelines in Boston and Staten Island, plans to use the data gathered through this pilot program to prioritize replacement of aging pipelines, Susan Fleck, National Grid’s Vice President of Pipeline Safety, told reporters during the briefing.

The problem appears to be particularly pervasive in cities with aging infrastructure. In Boston and Staten Island – both of which rely on many pipes that are more than 50 years old – the sensors detected an average of one leak per every mile driven. Many cities in the Northeast rely on similarly aging infrastructures. By contrast, Indianapolis – which has invested heavily in updated natural gas pipes – yielded an average of just one leak per 200 miles driven.

For its part, Massachusetts adopted a uniform classification system for prioritizing repairs of leaks in natural gas pipelines in a new law signed by Gov. Deval Patrick (D) on July 7. The EDF report highlights this law as a point of progress in developing a process to plan and fund long-term pipeline upgrades.

Methane is a potent greenhouse gas that can have a short-term impact on climate up to 120 times greater than carbon dioxide, says Louis Derry, a professor of earth and atmospheric sciences at Cornell University in Ithaca, N.Y. Over the long term, however, methane is not a major factor in altering climate because it persists in the atmosphere for only 10 to 20 years, he says.

“Even if methane is not a major climate player, curbing emissions is the right thing to do because it will reduce the danger of small leaks growing into larger, more dangerous leaks and will help to improve overall air quality,” Professor Derry says. (Methane is a contributing factor in the formation of ozone and smog.)

The release of these findings in a user-friendly format could help to secure public buy-in for costly infrastructure improvements, Derry suggests.

Replacing pipelines “is expensive, nobody wants to pay for it, and nobody wants to have their street dug up,” he explains. The visualizations offered by the EDF maps could persuade the public to put up with rate increases and the nuisance of lengthy construction projects to overhaul corroding pipelines.

The most encouraging aspect of this study, Derry says, is its role as an illustration of the technological leap in sensing capabilities. Until just a few years ago, these measurements would have been collected by hand and individually processed in the laboratory, he says. Today, for about $50,000, researchers can affix a sensor capable of taking a reading every second to the roof of a car or the wing of an airplane.

“This is a highly, cost-effective way to cover large areas that just wasn’t possible a few years ago,” he says. That capability could be used to follow up in an area where pipes have been replaced to see whether the replacement was effective in curbing emissions. It could also be employed to measure other emissions such as water vapor or carbon dioxide.

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