State Sen. Mike Stack today joined fellow lawmakers, Philadelphia Gas Works representatives and the family of a young PGW worker who died responding to a natural gas leak call to announce legislation that would help emergency natural gas responders.
Currently, the law provides for a one-time payment of death benefits to the surviving spouse, minor children, or parents of public employees, such as firefighters, law enforcement officers and other emergency responders, who are killed in the line of duty.
Stack’s legislation (Senate Bill 1197) would amend the law to add Natural Gas Responders who work for a city natural gas distribution operation and who respond to a natural gas leak or threat of a natural gas leak to the class of employees covered by this law, known as the Emergency and Law Enforcement Personnel Death Benefits Act.
“Just like police officers and firefighters, gas workers are public safety employees too, and they take big risks to protect the public,” Stack said. “They put their lives on the line every time they respond to a call, so they deserve the same benefits as other emergency responders.”
Stack and state Rep. Brendan Boyle worked together with PGW on this legislation in response to a natural gas explosion last January in Tacony that killed PGW worker Mark Keeley.
“Many people were not aware of risks our natural gas workers take until the tragedy in Tacony,” said Rep. Brendan Boyle. “We care about their sacrifice and we don’t want to see their widow or children suddenly wondering how they’re going to pay the mortgage bill. That would be a double tragedy.”
Added state Rep. John Sabatina, “For putting his life on the line, it’s only fair that Mark had the peace of mind to know that if anything happened to him, his family would be taken care of.”
“All first responders should rest assure that in the event of a tragedy their families will be taken care of,” said Rep. Kevin Boyle. “Enacting this legislation will insure the spouses and children of gas workers killed in the line of duty are not victimized twice.”
Gas workers across the state will benefit from this legislation, said Keith Holmes, president of the Utility Workers Union of America Local 686.
“We’re finally going to be recognized as first responders,” Holmes said. “Every day our lives are in danger. In January, it came to light in the City of Philadelphia. We are first responders and we keep people safe. We deserve the same benefits the firefighters and police officers get.”
The measure has support from Philadelphia City Council.
“This tragic event has brought to light the need to extend first responder benefits to our gas workers, as they too put their lives on the line while on the job,” said City Councilman Jim Kenney. “I applaud Senator Stack and Representative Boyle for sponsoring this important piece of legislation.”