Monday, March 25, 2019

Sens. Warren and Markey call on Columbia Gas to repair damaged roads due to gas disaster

"Columbia Gas and NiSource must provide reassurance that all of the municipalities’ requests will be met, in order to have a chance of rebuilding trust while rebuilding infrastructure."

Image Credit: Ryan Hutton/The Eagle-Tribune

Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward Markey (D-Mass.) sent a letter on Friday addressed to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and its parent company NiSource reminding them to repair more than 70 miles of damaged roads and sidewalks that were dug up as a result of the deadly September 13 natural gas disaster. The September 13 natural gas pipeline explosions and fires killed 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, injured more than two dozen, and damaged more than 100 structures.

In a letter addressed to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President and Chief Operating Officer Stephen Bryant and NiSource President and CEO Joseph Hamrock, the senators asserted, “We write to remind you of your commitment to making the communities affected by the September 13 gas explosions fully financially whole — a commitment that must at least include repairing damaged roads and sidewalks to the communities’ satisfaction. As part of the restoration of the gas system affected by the disaster, more than 70 miles of road in North Andover, Andover, and Lawrence were dug up, according to reports. To realize your commitment to full renumeration, these roads must be repaired in a manner consistent with the Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and any other municipal codes and regulations.”

According to estimates compiled by the three communities, at least 34 miles of road were impacted in Lawrence, at least 20.5 miles of road were affected in Andover, and 15.8 miles of road were impacted in North Andover. The repairs are estimated to cost from $160 million to $222 million for the three communities combined.

The senators concluded, “Residents have already lived through months without gas service to their homes and months of disruption caused by pipe replacement projects. Columbia Gas and NiSource must provide reassurance that all of the municipalities’ requests will be met, in order to have a chance of rebuilding trust while rebuilding infrastructure. We ask that you work with the leaders of the communities of North Andover, Andover and Lawrence and communicate your commitment to make them whole as soon as possible. Please provide the detailed plans for comprehensive restoration to us and to the leaders of North Andover, Andover, and Lawrence once they are made available.”

In response to the senators’ letter, Columbia Gas spokesperson Scott Ferson told The Eagle-Tribune that the company will “ensure compliance with the Department of Public Utilities’ order and we are working with the communities on the best approach to do that while recognizing the unique circumstances of this large-scale paving project.”

Ferson added, “Conversations with local leaders are ongoing and have focused on project scope, including curb to curb replacement and ADA requirements, and include discussion of a voluntary enhanced paving plan that goes above the DPU standards.”

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