June 23, 2020
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Sentenced for Violations of the Pipeline Safety Act
On June 23, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts sentenced Bay State Gas Company, d.b.a. Columbia Gas of Massachusetts (Columbia Gas) to a criminal fine of $53,030,116, a $400 special assessment, and a 3 year term of probation. Columbia Gas, during its probation period, will be required to employ an in-house compliance monitor to oversee its compliance with the National Transportation Safety Board’s recommendations and applicable laws and regulations. The term of probation will continue until Columbia Gas is sold to a qualified buyer, meeting the terms required by the court.
On March 9, 2020, Columbia Gas entered a guilty plea to a one-count information for violating the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act, in the same court.
Based on the information, Columbia Gas disregarded known safety risks in favor of timeliness 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. Thousands of people were displaced, one person was killed, and several people were injured.
DOT-OIG and the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted this investigation with substantial assistance from the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration; Fire and Explosion Investigation Section, Massachusetts State Police; and Lawrence Fire Department.