A bill tightening state gas line regulations passed last week by the Legislature and sent to the desk of Governor Deval Patrick will increase safety and help the environment by reducing greenhouse gas leaks. By also providing incentives for gas companies to upgrade their lines, the bill should pay dividends for all parties in the years ahead.

The legislation in essence requires gas companies to conduct annual inspections and identify and eliminate leaks. Along with safety and environmental benefits, consumers could see their bills reduced as leaks are reduced. Gas companies would be allowed to apply to the Department of Public Utilities for incremental rate increases to help cover repair and replacement costs and for expanded service to unserved areas. Christopher Farrell, spokesman for Berkshire Gas, which is already replacing its aging infrastructure, praised the legislation and complimented state Senator Benjamin Downing of Pittsfield, the chairman of the Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy, for his work in crafting the bill.

While the bill does not cover the interstate gas lines that are federally regulated, Berkshire residents should expect that an expanded Tennessee Gas pipeline crossing the state will meet this same exacting criteria, should the company’s plan be approved. All Berkshire elected officials; local, state and federal, must do what they can to assure that the pipeline expansion is done properly or -- if that cannot be absolutely assured -- that it is not done at all.