Eversource to acquire Columbia Gas of Massachusetts
By Christian M. Wade / Statehouse reporter, Eagle Tribune
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will be sold to Eversource Energy for $1.1 billion in a deal announced hours after federal prosecutors made public a settlement with the company to resolve a criminal charge for its role in the Merrimack Valley gas fires and explosions.
News of the embattled company's pending sale to a rival utility came after the U.S. Attorney's Office, U.S. Department of Transportation, FBI and other federal agencies announced that Columbia Gas and it's parent company, NiSource, had agreed to a guilty plea as part of a deal to avoid prosecution for role in the Sept. 13, 2018, disaster.
Federal officials blame the companies for causing the disaster that killed a teenager, injured dozens and damaged more than 130 homes in Andover, North Andover and south Lawrence.
Under the plea deal with prosecutors, Columbia Gas accepted responsibility for the disaster and agreed to pay a $53 million fine while NiSource put the company up for sale.
A criminal charge filed in U.S. District Court says Columbia Gas "recklessly disregarded" federal and state safety rules on regulator control lines, sections of pipe that connect and monitor gas lines and pressure, which caused the disaster.
"This disaster was caused by a wholesale management failure at Columbia Gas in overseeing the South Union Street project in Lawrence," Lelling told reporters at a briefing at the J. Joseph Moakley U.S. District Courthouse in Boston on Wednesday.