News Local/State

Measures Responding To 2016 Peoples Gas Leak Pass State Senate

State Senator Chapin Rose.

State Sen. Chapin Rose (R-Mahomet) speaking at a 2015 public meeting in Champaign on the Mahomet Aquifer. Jim Meadows/Illinois Public Media

Two measures designed to protect the public from future natural gas leaks at the Peoples Gas underground storage field in Champaign County passed the state Senate Thursday and now head to the Illinois House.

One measure (SB3549) requires Peoples Gas to pay for annual government inspections at the Manlove gas field near Mahomet.

Chief sponsor Chapin Rose of Mahomet says annual inspections might have prevented the leak that occurred in late 2016.

“We don’t want to ever be here again”, said Rose in his remarks to the Senate floor, supplied by the Senate Republican Office. “What happened should never have happened. The casement failed in apparently three different places. There is significant maintenance concerns at this particular below-ground storage field.”

The other bill (SB3548) requires Peoples Gas to quickly notify nearby residents, public water districts and government agencies when a leak occurs. Rose says while Peoples Gas notified some agencies of the 2016 leak, it was months before the general public found out about it.  

“They may have been technically compliant in their notice to various governmental agencies, they notified next to no one locally in any sort of timely fashion,” said Rose on the Senate floor. “There were numerous local water intake wells for at least three different water systems that were not notified that natural gas was present. Had it gotten into their wells at the concentrations at which it was occurring, it could have blown those plants sky-high.”

Rose says another concern comes from the Manlove Gas Field's location above the Mahomet Aquifer, the principle source of water for the region.

SB3548 passed the Senate on a vote of 54-0, while SB3549, the inspections bill, passed 52-0. Both bills were co-sponsored by Sen. Scott Bennett (D-Champaign).

Peoples Gas says the leak affected ten private wells in the area, but did not pose a serious health hazard.