Joint REBNY and BOMA Testimony on Intro 1088-A

MEMORANDUM OF OPPOSITION

BILL: Intro No. 1088-A

SUBJECT: Establishing periodic inspections of gas piping systems

DATE: November 15, 2016

SPONSORS: Espinal, Williams, Levine, Palma, Rose, Richards, Rodriguez, Crowley, Constantinides, Rosenthal. Mendez, Torres, Salamanca, Menchaca, Lander, Cohen, Van Bramer, Levin, Ulrich and Borelli.

REBNY represents nearly 17,000 owners, developers, managers, and brokers of real property in New York City.  BOMA/NY represents more than 750 owners, property managers, and building professionals who either own or manage 400 million square feet of commercial space.

Intro 1088-A establishes a periodic schedule for gas piping inspection.  All buildings, except those classified as R-3 and those without gas piping, would be subject to the periodic inspection every five years.  The bill requires that all visible gas piping would be inspected by a licensed master plumber, and that air must be tested by a portable combustible gas detector on all floors that have pipes, from the piping’s point of entry into the building, up to the gas meter, and to the individual tenant spaces.   Instances of gas leakage, illegal connections, violations of New York code or any other imminently dangerous condition will be reported to the local utility.  Otherwise, inspection reports will be kept by the building owner and inspector for at least eight years.  Any conditions identified in the report must be addressed within a certain period of time and certifications of such actions must be filed with the Department of Buildings or be subject to fines and penalties pursuant to a major violation.

This bill is part of a larger legislative package that seeks to address and prevent further gas-related explosions as a result of recent tragic gas explosions.  However, this bill requires inspections on indoor plumbing for leaks and atmospheric corrosion even though “indoor facilities are less susceptible to atmospheric corrosion, [and] they have not historically created safety issues[.]”[1]    According to the Gas Technology Institute, “indoor corrosion rates are 100 to 1,000 times lower than outdoor rates.”[2]

Nonetheless, even if the bill aims to add an extra layer of caution in requiring indoor pipe inspection, it curiously exempts one- and two- family homes when these structures have historically and disproportionately been subject to gas leaks and explosions.  In a recent New York Times article identifying the city’s most devastating gas explosions, half were one- to two-family homes.[3]   The bill’s failure to include these structures undercuts its overall intent to promote public safety and awareness.

Rather, the bill captures thousands of buildings such as large, multi-story commercial buildings and multi-family residences where risk from pipe corrosion or gas leaks is minimal.  Most of these buildings likely employ dedicated building staff trained in gas detection and other public safety functions.  Some buildings are equipped with automated gas detectors.  Periodic inspections would only add a complicated and expensive regulatory scheme where overhead costs would likely be passed on to the tenant.

For these reasons, REBNY and BOMA voice its opposition to Intro No 1088-A.

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[1] Memorandum and Resolution Adopting Gas Safety Regulation Amendments, State of New York Public Service Commission, April 2, 2015, p 8.

[2] Ibid at 9.

[3] Dunlap, David W., (2015, October 14) Gas Explosions that Rocked New York City, The New York Times.  Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/10/04/nyregion/gas-explosions-new-york.html?_r=0