Columbia Gas Reaches $80 Million Settlement In Merrimack Valley Disaster

columbia gas settlement press conference

Firefighters worked to extinguish a fire caused by over pressurized gas lines on September 13, 2018 in Lawrence, Massachusetts. (Scott Eisen/Getty Images)

ANDOVER, Mass. (WBZ NewsRadio) — Utility company Columbia Gas has reached a settlement with the three Merrimack Valley communities rocked by gas explosions last September.

The company has agreed to pay $80 million to Andover, North Andover, and Lawrence to cover the costs of repairing roads and other infrastructure torn up during restoration efforts.

The news was announced by Andover Town Manager Andrew Flanagan at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

"Of that total, $67.1 million has already been transferred to the communities," Flanagan said. "The allocation of the settlement funds was based on actual miles of impacted roads, actual costs incurred, and a formulaic split of the remaining funds. The three communities are well underway to providing the appropriate documentation to Columbia Gas, so that the remaining $12.8 million can be released immediately."

One person, 17-year-old Leonel Rondon, was killed in the disaster, several others were injured, and thousands of residents in the three communities were without gas for months after over-pressurized gas lines caused explosions and fires across the three towns.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera said the settlement was the best deal that could be reached, and spares taxpayers from bearing the financial burden. However, he said he still wants the company to cease to exist.

"If a kid from Lawrence picked up a gun and shot somebody, that kid would lose his ability to be free, he would go to jail for life," Rivera said. "Somebody died here, and it could have been prevented."

Columbia Gas President Mark Kempic called it the "best possible outcome" and thanked the communities for their "strength, patience, and resilience."

Kempec said insurance covers a lot of the settlement. When asked if customers can expect to face a rate hike, he said the company had "no plans of going for rate recovery."

WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal) reports

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