BOSTON (CBS) – Massachusetts has banned Columbia Gas from doing any non-emergency work in the state while it is under investigation.

In a letter to Columbia Gas, the Department of Public Utilities cited the recent gas emergency in Lawrence and other problems uncovered.

Columbia Gas will now have to get special permission for any project.

The gas leak in September was caused by contractors working for the City of Lawrence who were checking water valves in preparation of road paving.

The contractors “inadvertently” closed a gas valve which punctured an active gas main. The valve should have been disabled as part of pipeline reconstruction and was not compliant with DPU standards.

In 2018, a series of explosions and fires were caused by a gas line that became overpressurized.

Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera applauded the actions by the state Thursday. “This moratorium is exactly what we need until Columbia gas can show us they can walk and chew gum at the same time, when it comes to the safety of the community and running the utility,” Rivera said.

The DPU says it does not expect this order to affect gas hookup services for home buyers and conversion requests.

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