Columbia Gas To Be Held Accountable For 2018 Gas Disaster
In a 10:30 a.m. press conference, U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling revealed that Columbia Gas has agreed to pay a $53 million fine for the explosions and fires that killed a young man and damaged or destroyed several homes and businesses in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover on September 13, 2018.
The fine is the largest ever issued for a violation of the National Gas Pipeline Safety Act and will provide a source for funding further safety protections and ensure Columbia Gas does not profit from the sale of its operations in the commonwealth.
Lelling said that the 2018 tragedy was a result of a “complete organizational failure” by Columbia Gas, noting that the company cut corners in their safety and hiring practices to save costs.
Despite the heavy fines, Columbia Gas will still continue as a company, although they will cease operations in Massachusetts and will serve a three-year probational period.
No individual was criminally prosecuted, and when asked if this should still be considered justice, Lelling stated “I think this is justice. We always prioritize prosecuting an individual, but we were unable to do that here. There was simply no one individual here who rose to the level of a federal crime.”
A federal monitor will soon be appointed to survey the conditions of Columbia Gas and provide reports on a monthly basis.