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Natural gas company to pay state $56M for explosions

via Eagle Tribune

The utility blamed for a series of natural gas explosions in Massachusetts in 2018 that killed one person, injured almost two dozen and damaged more than 100 buildings has agreed to pay the state $56 million, state Attorney General Maura Healey said.

The money from the deal with Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and its parent company, NiSource, will be used to provide gas bill debt relief for about 26,000 low-income customers, and for clean energy programs, the state announced Thursday.

“This settlement will support the affected communities by improving and maintaining safety in the region, increasing clean energy and energy efficiency measures and providing rate relief to low-income customers,” Gov. Charlie Baker said in a statement.

Also, Columbia Gas will cease doing business in the state as of Nov. 1 and transfer its assets to another utility, Eversource.

The deal requires approval of the state Department of Public Utilities.

The settlement with the state is in addition to a $53 million federal fine for violating the Pipeline Safety Act, and a $143 million settlement stemming from a class-action lawsuit.

Federal investigators blamed the explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover in Sept. 2018 on overpressurized gas lines, saying the company failed to account for critical pressure sensors as workers replaced century-old, cast-iron pipes in Lawrence.


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