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State approves $56 million settlement with Columbia Gas for Merrimack Valley gas explosions

On Sept. 21, 2018, fire investigators searched the debris at a home, which exploded following a gas line failure in Lawrence, Mass.
On Sept. 21, 2018, fire investigators searched the debris at a home, which exploded following a gas line failure in Lawrence, Mass.Charles Krupa/Associated Press

A settlement agreed upon in July that requires Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to pay $56 million for its role in the 2018 Merrimack Valley gas explosions was approved by the state Department of Public Utilities on Wednesday, officials said.

The settlement also requires Columbia Gas to leave Massachusetts and transfer its assets to Eversource Energy, the department said in a statement.

The agreement resolves the department’s investigation into the company’s pipeline safety compliance and emergency response related to the September 2018 explosions.

The explosions killed one person, injured 20 and damaged more than 100 homes and businesses in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

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The funds will help alleviate about $15 million of gas debt for about 26,000 low income-customers, the statement said.

The remaining funds will be directed to the Merrimack Valley Renewal Fund, which will provide clean energy programs and grants for residents, businesses, and municipalities in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover , the statement said.

“Our approval of this settlement ensures that Columbia Gas is held accountable for the tragic gas incident in the Merrimack Valley, and provides needed support to the impacted communities and low-income residents,” DPU Chairman Matthew Nelson said in the statement.

The asset transfer is expected to occur by Nov. 1, the statement said.

Eversource will be required to implement a comprehensive safety and reliability program, address any remedial actions remaining from Columbia’s pipeline safety violations, and develop a clean energy analysis to ensure its business strategies are consistent with Massachusetts’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction requirements, the statement said.


Andrew Stanton can be reached at andrew.stanton@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @_andrewstanton.