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Gas utility settles Massachusetts gas explosion class action lawsuits for $143 million

30 July 2019

US utility group NiSource said on July 29 it will pay $143 million to resolve class action lawsuits caused by a series of gas explosions in three Massachusetts communities last year. NiSource said the agreement will resolve claims by thousands or residents and businesses affected by the September 2018 disaster, which killed one person, injured at least 21 others and destroyed many buildings in Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.

Representative image: Shutterstock
Representative image: Shutterstock

The explosions occurred while NiSource subsidiary Columbia Gas of Massachusetts was replacing cast-iron pipe with plastic lines and caused the evacuation of thousands of residents.

Last October, the National Transportation Safety Board said that an investigation found that Columbia Gas was replacing ageing cast iron gas pipes without proper safety supervision when high pressure gas flooded the network, causing the explosions and fires.

The settlement is separate from an $80 million deal that the company reached with the three communities in May and a recent settlement between Columbia and the family of a teenager killed during the gas explosions.

The company said the class action settlements require court approval and are part of the $1 billion NiSource has dedicated to addressing the needs of customers, residents and communities affected by the disaster.

“What happened last September was tragic, and we will always be mindful of its impact on our customers and everyone in the communities we serve, including those represented by this settlement,” NiSource Chief Executive Joe Hamrock said in a statement.

The lawsuits were filed soon after the explosion and accused the company of inadequately maintaining its distribution system. Lawyers for the plaintiffs claimed in court papers the gas pipeline system used by Columbia Gas to service those communities was poorly maintained, antiquated and highly dangerous.

Federal prosecutors in Boston and the US Securities and Exchange Commission have also opened investigations related to the disaster.

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