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Rivera: No way to pay for gas disaster distress -Columbia Gas settlement can't make up for suffering

by Jessica Valeriani, Eagle Tribune

Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera said the $80 million that Columbia Gas is giving the three communities affected by the gas disaster covers their financial losses, but does not make up for the months of disruption in thousands of victims' lives.


Rivera said the settlement announced Tuesday was a "fair deal," but it falls short of what he expected Lawrence, Andover and North Andover should receive.


The Sept. 13 disaster, caused by over-pressurized gas lines, displaced thousands of residents among the three communities and killed one 18-year-old man from Lawrence. The massive emergency sent several people to local hospitals and damaged some 60 to 100 homes.


"Let's just say this ($80 million) is right on the line of meeting their responsibility," Rivera said of Columbia Gas covering the money the communities paid for everything from road repairs after gas pipeline placement to special work by police and firefighters.


Rivera did not specify the dollar amount he expected from the company, but said, "The amount of emotional distress and general displacement of peoples' lives is something you can't really put a number on."


The $80 million settlement is broken down this way: $57.1 million will go toward road restoration, $10 million will go toward expense reimbursement, and $12.8 million will go toward claims and losses incurred by the municipalities.


Lawrence, which was hit the hardest by the gas disasters, will receive $31.9 million of the $57.1 million for road repairs. It will cover the costs taxpayers otherwise would have had to pay.



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