March 9, 2020
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Enters Guilty Plea and Agrees To Pay Largest Federal Criminal Fine Imposed Under Pipeline Safety Act
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.