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Google mapping cars showed locations of hundreds of Dallas' underground gas leaks | News | Dallas News

While these leaks don't pose an immediate health hazard, they are bad for the environment. Natural gas -- mostly methane -- is an

important contributor to climate change

and is much more powerful than carbon dioxide.

And Atmos is aware of leaks, which aside from environmental concerns are also money losers. A

federal study found

that Massachusetts' residents paid as much as $1.5 billion extra between 2000 to 2011 for gas lost toleaks.

Atmos Energy continues to invest more than $1 billion a year in capital projects across the eight states we serve. More than 80 percent of that is directed towards improving the safety and reliability of our system while reducing methane emissions, said John McDill, Atmos Energy Vice President of Pipeline Safety, in a written statement.

Jennifer Altieri, an Atmos spokeswoman, said the company traced the paths of the Google cars to confirm the readings and make sure major leaks were repaired. She said she didn't knowhow many leaks were fixed as a result of this project,but it would have been a small number.

"This is absolutely not a safety issue," she said. "We really don't want to scare the public."

The EDF announcement includes the caveat that this map is a snapshot in time. The testing was done betweenJanuary 2015 and February 2016 as the Google cars traveled more than 700 miles. Many leaks could have been repaired by now, while new ones could havestarted.

This program's technology is more sensitive than what's used by gas companies to detect leaks. The EDF said that these sensors are "designed to find and measure leaks that wouldnt necessarily turn up or warrant repair based on safety concerns alone."

Atmos Energy Mid-Tex Division is planning to replace all its cast iron and bare steel pipes by 2021. Those make up about 13 percent of the gas mains and areprone to leaking. About half the company's mains here are more than 50 years old.

Dallas is one of nine participating cities,including

Boston

, Los Angeles, Chicago and Jacksonville, Fla.This program was developed with scientists from Colorado State University.

On Twitter: @jeffmosier

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