On March 9, 2020, in the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts, Bay State Gas Company, d.b.a. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (Columbia Gas), entered a plea of guilty to a one-count information charging the company with violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act. As part of the plea, Columbia Gas agreed to pay a criminal fine of $53,030,116.
Based on the information, Columbia Gas disregarded known safety risks when it replaced aging pipeline infrastructure in Lawrence, Massachusetts. As a result, explosions and fires occurred in the Merrimack Valley area on September 13, 2018. One person was killed, and several people were injured.
DOT-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) conducted this investigation with substantial assistance from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration (PHMSA); Fire and Explosion Investigation Section, Massachusetts State Police; and Lawrence Fire Department.