BOSTON (CBS) – Columbia Gas will pay $56 million for its role in the Merrimack Valley gas explosions and leave Massachusetts Nov. 1 Attorney General Maura Healey announced Thursday.
The money will be used to help low-income gas customers and to increase energy efficiency in older homes and buildings in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
As part of a plea agreement in February, the company also agreed to sell its business in Massachusetts. Eversource reached an agreement to purchase the natural gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion.
“The Merrimack Valley gas explosions were heartbreaking and disruptive for the lives of thousands of families and businesses – many of whom are still recovering,” Healey said. “Today’s first-of-its-kind agreement ensures that Columbia Gas never does business in Massachusetts again, invests millions of dollars in the Merrimack Valley, and helps low-income customers pay their gas bills. This significant result will lay the groundwork for a safer natural gas system in the region and bring the benefits of our clean energy economy to more residents.”
In February, the FBI Boston said a joint investigation led to the decision to hold Columbia Gas “criminally & financially accountable” for the explosions and fires that killed a young man and damaged or destroyed several homes and businesses.
The settlement also extends the rates set 2015 through November 2021 and requires Eversource to return to customers more than $6.7 million in savings from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. The settlement also requires Eversource to spread the impact of its next rate increase out over two years. Eversource has also agreed to several clean energy initiatives.
“Today’s announcement builds on our administration’s commitment to the full recovery of the communities, residents and businesses of the Merrimack Valley who were severely impacted by the tragic 2018 gas explosions, and to improved pipeline safety throughout the Commonwealth,” said Governor Charlie Baker. “We are pleased that this settlement will support the affected communities by improving and maintaining safety in the region, increasing clean energy and energy efficiency measures and providing rate relief to low-income customers.”
The agreement with Columbia Gas must still be approved by the state’s Department of Public Utilities.