If National Grid starts to replace gas mains in your neighborhood this spring, summer, or fall, it may also try to move your existing gas meter from inside your basement to the exterior front of your home – all without much warning. Don't be caught off guard – KNOW YOUR RIGHTS.
As Spring takes hold, construction season begins, which means that National Grid begins its ongoing work to replace aging gas mains throughout the City and State.
Some of these mains are nearly a century old and crumbling, so replacing them is a good thing. But there is a little known aspect to National Grid's gas main replacement program that directly impacts homeowners and their properties, and can blindside consumers when National Grid starts its work nearby.
When National Grid comes to your street to replace gas mains, it will often try to move any gas meters that currently exist inside the homes on that street to their exteriors. Unfortunately, the utility company and its contractors don't always ask before they start the process, nor are they required to disclose that you have a choice by law as to where a gas meter is placed on your property. In the case of historic properties, you also have the right to keep your gas meter inside your house.
SUMMARY OF consumer RIGHTS
FOR gas meter locations
- Before installing or relocating any residential gas meter or gas regulator, National Grid must consult with the property owner as to his or her preference for location
- National Grid must "give preference to locations that are least visibly prominent" for gas meter and regulator installations
- National Grid cannot install gas meters or regulators on the visible front or visible sides of a property that face a public right-of-way unless permitted to do so by the property owner
- National Grid may not install gas meters or regulators on the exterior of a property located within a historic district unless permitted to do so by the owner and after having obtained a certificate of appropriateness from a city or town's Historic District Commission (in high pressure systems National Grid may install regulator only on property exterior with approval from owner and Historic District Commission)
- Read complete legislation governing the location of gas meters and regulators here
National Grid along with its contractors and representatives may give you many reasons for why it wants to relocate interior gas meters to the outside of your home, but please know that the only valid reason – and the one that was given somewhat begrudgingly by the company before the Public Utilities Commission – is convenience for the company. Any other reasons given such as "it's safer," "it's required," or "it's the law" is bluster and incorrect.
Per federal law, National Grid must perform gas leak safety checks every 3 years on any of its gas equipment inside homes. In addition, the utility company must replace residential gas meters every fifteen years and commercial meters every ten. So if you get a notice from National Grid about any of those requirements, they truly are requirements, so be sure to schedule them accordingly.
Should National Grid come to your neighborhood, be sure you and your neighbors know your rights. For more information, read the full legislation here, and also learn about West Broadway Neighborhood Association's history with this issue at Gas Meter Madness (summary below).
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A little background on gas meters and the west side...
Nine years ago National Grid began gas main replacement work in the Knight Street area between Westminster Street and Broadway. Neighbors came home to their sidewalks destroyed, landscaping dug up and, in many cases, a gas pipe poking out of the ground inches from their foundation and front steps – all without warning or notice.
What neighbors saw was a utility company abusing its power and violating private property rights, not to mention the imminent blight that would be imposed on their homes by forcible gas meter installations on the fronts of their properties.
WBNA worked with neighbors, elected officials including Senator Jabour and Representative (then-Councilman) Lombardi, businesses, and other organizations to protect the private property rights of citizens not only in our west side neighborhood but throughout the state of Rhode Island. Working together, we succeeded in getting a law passed that requires utility companies to consult with homeowners before relocating or installing any gas utility equipment in or on a property.