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.