Gas Companies Decry Regulations Resulting From Columbia Gas Explosions

BOSTON (WBZ NewsRadio) — Utilities companies are looking to challenge some state regulations that were put in place because of the Columbia Gas disaster.

The new rules were signed into law by Gov. Charlie Baker shortly after the September 2018 explosions that rocked the Merrimack Valley -- killing one person and leaving several others injured.

They require gas companies to have an engineer review and sign off on construction projects beforehand, as the previous explosions were catalyzed by a lack of oversight.

Gas companies say the regulations are too constricting and cost too much money to implement -- but Andover State Senator Barry Finegold said he disagrees.

"As someone who has lived and dealt with the Columbia Gas crisis – I think we have to be extra careful and make sure that we take every step to make sure that what we had happened doesn’t happen again," he said.

Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey also supports keeping the existing rules in place, citing that it would cost far more money if companies had to handle another potential explosion.

"Overconfidence breeds complacency," Markey said. "What is really expensive is paying the massive fines and costs of putting communities back together after a disaster has occurred because of the lack of safety procedures."

In a statement, National Grid said it supports the state's "public safety objectives," but wants to change the rules to allow engineers to be dispatched to more complicated jobs instead of simple ones.

"We’ve proposed changes to the language of certain requirements to ensure that we are using our Professional Engineer (PE) staff on the types of complex activities that improve public safety, as opposed to work that can safely be undertaken by our highly trained and experienced workforce,” the statement read.

The Department of Public Utilities has scheduled a public hearing for April 8 to discuss the request to only have engineers review complex projects.

WBZ NewsRadio's Karyn Regal (@Karynregal)reports.

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Written by Rachel Armany

(Photo: Getty Images)

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