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Rivera: Fine should go to gas disaster victims

By Breanna Edelstein, Eagle Tribune

In the hours after learning that Columbia Gas was slapped with a $53 million fine Wednesday, Mayor Daniel Rivera urged federal officials to find a way to get that money into the pockets of victims of the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts valued at $10 billion, agreed to pay the fine and take steps to sell the utility as part of a plea deal related to criminal charges stemming from the events of Sept. 13, 2018.

On that day, an over-pressurized gas line caused simultaneous explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. The mayhem killed a teenager, injured dozens of others and damaged more than 130 homes.

Rivera said Wednesday — as he has continuously since the disaster — that “it will be a great day in the Merrimack Valley and in the Commonwealth when Columbia Gas of Massachusetts no longer exists.”

“It’s great that U.S. Attorney (Andrew) Lelling got Columbia Gas to plead guilty in the acts that caused the gas explosions. This agreement will bring some much needed solace to those affected,” Rivera said.

"And as I said at the Senate hearing conveyed by Sen. (Edward) Markey and Sen. (Elizabeth) Warren back in November 2018, a criminal charge, a criminal fine with probation, and the fact that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will no longer exist; this is as close to what justice can look like to those of us affected,” he continued.

Sen. Edward Markey in a statement Wednesday bashed Columbia Gas’ negligence leading up to the disaster, noting that “Columbia Gas of Massachusetts cut corners on safety in order to cut down on costs.”


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