The United States Attorney's Office has announced federal charges against Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, following the deadly gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley in 2018. The company has "agreed to plead guilty to violating the Pipeline Safety Act."
The FBI's Boston Office said the charges come after a joint investigation by the FBI and the U.S. Department of Transportation Office of the Inspector General. The U.S. Attorney's Office held a press conference at 10:30 a.m. Wednesday at Moakley Federal Courthouse in Boston.
Officials said Columbia Gas is "criminally" and "financially accountable" for the 2018 explosions in the Merrimack Valley, which took the life of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, and damaged dozens of homes and buildings.
"Under the terms of the plea agreement filed in court today, first Columbia Gas will pay a $53 million fine... by far the largest criminal fine ever imposed by the Pipeline Safety Act," said U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling. "Until Columbia Gas is sold, an independent monitor... will monitor the company's activities... and report to the government on a monthly basis."
Columbia Gas is also to be sold by its parent company NiSource Inc., which will have to stop doing business in the state, and Columbia Gas will be on probation for three years.