A gavel resting on top of many folders stacked on each other
An overview of pending state bills that could affect propane detector requirements

Last month’s column discussed residential fuel gas detectors and reviewed recent technological developments that may change the legal landscape for propane marketers in liability lawsuits. Detectors now on the market are said to have eliminated the serious problem of false alarms, and manufacturers boast dramatically longer battery life (as much as 10 years in some cases). And today, residential fuel gas detectors are readily available for purchase in stores and over the internet.

From a legal standpoint, these developments seem to be shifting the focus on gas detectors from the courts to state legislatures. Historically, plaintiffs’ lawyers have argued that it is up to the propane marketer to advise its customers about the availability of detectors, and in some cases even install them in customer locations. That is changing. State legislatures are now taking over the issue, and the strong trend is to place responsibility for installing and maintaining detectors where it belongs — on the property owner.

New York City & Maine

In 2016, the New York City Council passed a law requiring the installation of fuel gas detectors in residential buildings. The law is only now going into effect, since the council required that an industry standard be developed on the manufacture and installation of detectors. (NFPA 715 was published in 2022). In 2021, the Maine Legislature passed a law requiring the installation of detectors in many types of commercial and residential buildings. Both laws were the result of political pressure generated by catastrophic gas explosions. Neither law places responsibility for the installation, maintenance and inspection of detectors on gas suppliers. Responsibility under these laws clearly lies with the property owner.


This is as it should be. The property owner is in the best position to select the device of their choice and to install, maintain and inspect it in accordance with manufacturer’s instructions. As new legislation is proposed in other venues, these early enactments provide important guidance. With that in mind, let’s look at the proposed legislation currently pending in other venues.

Automatic Reporting

As of the writing of this article, there is proposed fuel gas detector legislation pending in seven states. Of most concern for propane marketers is New York. On Jan. 25, 2023, Bill 2312 was introduced in the New York State Assembly. It requires the State Fire Prevention and Building Code Council to develop standards for the installation of an “operable combustible gas detector” in virtually all residential structures in the state. The requirement would go into effect on July 1, 2024. The requirement would clearly apply to propane because the bill defines a “combustible gas detector” as “an alarm device … for the detection of combustible quantities of methane and propane gases.”

However, in addition to requiring the installation of detectors, Bill 2312 includes an unusual and problematic feature. It states that detectors must be “equipped with technology enabling such devices to automatically report the occurrence of each gas leak detected by such devices to the company providing gas to the dwelling in which such device is located.” This requirement appears to be modeled on a program established by Consolidated Edison (Con Edison), the natural gas utility company in New York City, to install detectors in customer locations. Here is how Con Edison’s website describes the operation of its detectors:

“If levels of natural gas indicate a potential leak, the natural gas detector will beep loudly and sound the following audible alarm: ‘Danger. Gas leak explosion risk. Evacuate, then call 911.’ It will also automatically send an alert to us. Con Edison and the fire department will then respond and investigate. The alarm will continue to sound until we arrive and silence the unit.”

The problem from the propane marketer’s standpoint is that the signal from Con Edison’s detector is transmitted back to Con Edison through its electric meter on the premises. (Con Edison is a combined natural gas and electric utility.) How a propane marketer would be expected to replicate this kind of communication system is unknown. Bill 2312 was referred to the New York Assembly’s General Operations Committee and remains pending there as of the writing of this article.

It is certainly in the interest of all New York marketers to urge that, at a minimum, the bill be amended to make it clear that the “automatic reporting” requirement does not apply to propane, and that the building owner and occupant have the clear responsibility for the installation, maintenance and inspection of any detectors.

Other States

Proposed legislation pending in other states takes a variety of approaches. House Bill 6848, pending in the Connecticut Legislature, would broadly require the installation of detectors in all buildings that use “combustible gas.” The requirement would go into effect immediately for new construction and in two years for existing buildings. The bill has been referred to committee, and no action has yet been taken.

A bill pending in Illinois — Senate Bill 1370 — would require a detector, installed by the building owner, in every room where there is a propane or natural gas appliance. However, the requirement is limited to residential, hotel and other similar structures. This bill has been referred to committee, and as of yet there has been no action on it.

Bills in several states would limit the detector requirement to rented residential property. A Tennessee bill — House Bill 171 — requires the installation of a detector in every room containing a propane or natural gas appliance. The requirement would be limited to residential rental property, including multifamily structures.

Similarly, the North Carolina Senate Bill 711 requires a detector in every room in a residential rental property where there is a gas appliance. Responsibility for installation is explicitly placed on the landlord, and maintenance and inspection responsibility lie with the tenant. Both bills remain pending in their respective legislatures.

Massachusetts House Bill 2396 and New Jersey Senate Bill 852 are two other pending gas detector bills. Similar bills have been introduced in both legislatures for several years with no legislation passed, so it is entirely possible that these bills will meet a similar fate. The Massachusetts bill applies broadly to any building with a gas appliance. The New Jersey bill is more limited, applying to residential and similar structures.

Action in 2024

Legislative sessions in the seven states considering gas detector legislation will end later in 2024. It is possible that some, or even all, of the pending bills will remain in their assigned committees without a vote by the full legislatures. That would effectively kill the proposed legislation, although similar bills could be introduced in the new legislative sessions beginning in 2025. On the other hand, some, or even all, of these bills could be enacted into law later this year, possibly with amendments.

From the propane marketer’s standpoint, several points are important. First, any legislation requiring the installation of gas detectors must make it clear that responsibility for installation, maintenance and inspection lies strictly with the property owner or occupant of the premises. This is implicit in most of the bills currently pending and is explicit in some. But from the marketer’s standpoint, the legislative language should be clear and explicit. These devices are no different in concept from smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors, and responsibility for them should similarly lie with the property owner and occupant.

Second, marketers should strongly oppose any proposed legislation that would impose a requirement for an “automatic reporting system,” which sends a gas detector alarm in a customer location directly to the marketer. While such a system may be technically feasible for a large city utility with both gas and electric operations, it makes no sense for the propane industry, which rarely uses meters (much less “smart” meters with communications capability) at customer locations.

Developments on the pending legislation discussed in this article will be reported in future columns. Readers who are interested in following the progress of these bills can consult the following website: legiscan.com.

David Schlee is of counsel to The McCarthy Law Firm P.C. He may be reached at david@mokpclaw.com.


Are You Prioritizing Safety in the Transport of Propane Tanks?