Baltimore residents say they plan to take legal action against Baltimore Gas & Electric over a project to install gas regulators on the outside of houses.
Thiru Vignarajah, former Maryland deputy attorney general, is leading the effort, representing eight neighborhood associations, according to a press release. They plan to announce a lawsuit at a news conference Thursday.
Fells Point and Federal Hill residents have raised concerns over the gas installation project for months, saying their communities of mostly row houses are not fit to have external regulators. They said regulators on the inside of houses are a better option. The devices help maintain a set and safe gas pressure.
Residents are particularly worried about cars and scooters crashing into the regulators — a primary cause of serious gas accidents, according to data from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration under the U.S. Department of Transportation.
BGE is planning to replace over 11,200 indoor gas regulators by the end of 2031 at the cost of approximately $105 million to comply with the Flower Branch Act of 2021, which requires outdoor regulators in multifamily dwellings. It was adopted after a gas explosion at the Flower Branch apartments in Silver Spring in 2016. The utility company has said the regulators are safer outside and would provide “more reliable and resilient service to residents.”
However, an advisory bulletin from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration said gas companies “should evaluate each service installation to determine the appropriate location of the service regulators.”
Although the utility company can — and in some circumstances should — install external regulators, BGE has lacked transparency in its protocol and should evaluate the individual circumstances of each building, the Office of People’s Counsel has said.
Residents say BGE has “extorted consent from unwitting customers by unlawfully threatening to disconnect and terminate gas service” if they don’t comply with the project.
“Under the false pretext of safety and exploiting the tragedy of the Flower Branch apartment explosion seven years ago, BGE has switched from vocally objecting to external gas regulators before the General Assembly to now insisting upon them, realizing they can use the unwanted ‘infrastructure investments’ to add a profit-gouging surcharge to customers’ bills,” according to the press release from residents announcing the planned legal action.