UPDATE: Columbia Gas agrees to sale, $53 million fine as part of guilty plea
by Christian M. Wade / Statehouse Reporter, Eagle Tribune
The parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts will take steps to sell the utility as part of a plea deal to criminal charges stemming from the 2018 gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley.
Indiana-based NiSource, one of the largest utilities in the country, agreed to the sale as part of a deferred prosecution for its role in the disaster, said U.S. Attorney for Massachusetts Andrew Lelling. Columbia Gas also agreed to pay a fine of more than $53 million as part of the deal.
In addition, Columbia Gas will be required to allow federal monitors to supervise its operations for three years.
Lelling said the agreement follows a year-long investigation by his office, the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies into Columbia Gas’ role in the Sept. 13, 2018, disaster that killed a teenager, injured dozens and damaged more than 130 homes in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence.
He announced the settlement at a news conference at the Moakley U.S. Courthouse in Boston on Wednesday morning.
For its part, NiSource has agreed to turn over any profits from a sale of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to a third party and implement safety regulations that were previously recommended by federal regulators.