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Massachusetts lawmakers frustrated with Columbia Gas after Lawrence leak

by Lisa Kashinsky, Boston Herald

U.S. Rep. Seth Moulton said Columbia Gas should lose its license to distribute in the Bay State after a major gas leak forced the evacuation of hundreds of people in Lawrence — sparking new fears after last year’s Merrimack Valley gas disaster.


Moulton is one of several members of the state congressional delegation who voiced renewed frustrations with the utility company Friday after a Level 1 gas leak — the most severe — was caused by contractors who inadvertently closed a gas valve, puncturing an active gas main.


The Department of Public Utilities said the gas valve in question should have been disabled as part of Columbia Gas’ pipeline reconstruction efforts last year and was noncompliant with state standards. Columbia Gas has identified 45 valves for compliance checks.


Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, who’s previously called for Columbia Gas to lose its license in Massachusetts, said in a press conference, “This is a human incident that has affected a lot of people and in the end we have to make sure that these people are made whole.”


Moulton said “it’s the best option” for Columbia Gas to be shut down, adding, “I don’t think we should wait for a third strike.”


Moulton previously called for Columbia Gas to go out of business because he “didn’t think they were compensating the people of Massachusetts enough for the carnage they caused” when over-pressurization of gas lines led to explosions and fires that killed a Lawrence teenager, injured nearly two dozen others, and damaged or destroyed more than 100 homes across that city, Andover and North Andover last year.


“Look, people need to be able to trust that they can turn on a stove and heat their homes and not get blown up. And no one in the Merrimack Valley feels that way today,” said Moulton, whose district includes North Andover and part of Andover.


Other elected leaders stopped short of calling for Columbia Gas to lose its license to operate in Massachusetts.


U.S. Rep. Lori Trahan, whose district includes the affected area, said she was “outraged,” adding, “The citizens of Lawrence have been through enough. With the memory of last year’s deadly disaster still fresh, Columbia Gas owes our community a detailed explanation of how this new section of pipeline has already failed.”



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