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Columbia Gas of Massachusetts pleading guilty to federal charge after Merrimack Valley explosions

The Boston Globe

The gas utility that was responsible for the September 2018 disaster that rocked the Merrimack Valley has agreed to plead guilty to violating a federal safety law and sell off all of its operations in Massachusetts, helping to bring closure to a community that remains rattled since the fires and explosions forced residents from their homes.

NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, also has agreed to pay a $53 million fine, court documents show.

The company plans to plead guilty to specific charges that it was reckless, in violation of the federal Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, in overlooking key safety measures pertaining to the regulation of gas pressure, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.

“This investigation found that Columbia Gas, through a pattern of flagrant indifference in the face of extreme risks to life and property, knowingly violated minimum safety standards,” US Attorney Andrew Lelling said at a Boston news conference.

The agreement says Columbia Gas won’t face additional charges beyond the sole count of knowing and willful failure to prepare and follow a procedure for the starting up and shutting down of a pipeline designed to assure operation within the maximum allowable operation pressure.


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