DiZoglio Bill Would Hold Gas Companies Accountable

In response to last year’s devastating gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley, which destroyed homes and buildings in communities across North Andover, Lawrence and Andover, State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) has sponsored legislation designed to both hold gas companies accountable and prevent future incidents.

Senate Bill 1952, An Act relative to gas leaks and infrastructure, increases the reporting requirements of gas companies when they learn of gas leaks to local fire and law enforcement agencies and to make information about gas leaks public, both on the gas company’s and the Department of Public Utilities’ (DPU) websites.

The legislation, which was recently heard before the legislature’s Joint Committee on Telecommunications, Utilities, and Energy, mandates that all three entities – the gas company, local law enforcement and the local fire department – record the location of the leak and any mitigation done to resolve the issue. The bill also requires that gas companies remain responsible for any significant project on a public way and authorizes financial penalties for failure to comply with any provision.

Furthermore, the legislation requires an annual review by DPU pertaining to certified pipeline inspectors to ensure that an adequate number of certified inspectors are engaged in pipeline inspection across the Commonwealth.

“Last fall’s Columbia Gas explosions turned my constituents’ lives upside down, as restoration of service not only proved slow but communication to those affected was unreliable,” said DiZoglio. “With lackluster assistance from Columbia, residents turned to social media for help and called daily for assistance from my office as they went from adjuster to adjuster getting less than they were promised – and far less than they deserved. As those impacted continue to recover more than one year since the explosions, and much more recently since the September gas leak in the City of Lawrence, this bill will provide key tools in our efforts to avert future disasters and ensure gas companies are held responsible for their actions.”

In addition to this legislation, DiZoglio is also the sponsor of Senate Bill 1953, An Act creating a Department of Utilities Disaster Relief Fund, and Senate Bill 1954, An Act relative to transparency, accountability, and fairness impacting utility rates, which together create a gas disaster relief fund to help ensure ratepayers don’t bear the brunt of costs associated with such an event.

Senate Passes DiZoglio Campaign Finance Reform Bill

The Massachusetts State Senate has passed legislation sponsored by State Senator Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) to increase transparency and accountability in the Commonwealth’s public elections.

Up to this point, the legislature and some mayoral candidates have been exempt from the law that requires statewide, county and many other municipal candidates use the depository reporting system.

The bill, An Act relative to campaign finance, seeks to remedy this disparity by requiring all legislative and mayoral candidates in Massachusetts begin participating in the system.

The legislation assists the Office of Campaign and Political Finance (OCPF) to identify, early on, discrepancies between a candidate’s public disclosure of campaign finance activity and their bank accounting records.

The depository reporting system increases accountability by requiring the candidate or committee file a report that discloses all campaign finance activity, once a month, alongside their financial institution. Since depository finance reports are filed 12 times per year under this bill, transparency in campaign finance activity is significantly increased when compared with the current, outdated campaign finance requirements for legislative and certain mayoral candidates. Reports under the non-depository system are filed only two or three times a year.

This legislation will assist OCPF to more promptly address issues associated with data entry errors, missed deposits, balance issues and uncashed checks. The change will also make it easier to see how much money a candidate is raising and spending during the course of the entire election cycle.

“Nearly all candidates, including statewide officers, county officers, Governor’s Council, mayors and councilors in cities over a population of 65,000, have participated in this depository reporting system – with the exception of some mayoral and all legislative candidates,” said DiZoglio. “This landmark legislation enhances transparency and accountability in our campaign finance law by requiring that bank statements are sent to OCPF and that we disclose our sources of campaign contributions and expenditures much more often for the public to see.”