- NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, announced Monday it has reached a $143 million settlement related to several September 2018 explosions.
- The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) is continuing to investigate the incident, but has said faulty work plans led to an accidental system overpressurization.
- The settlement covers all class action lawsuits regarding damages from the explosions in the towns of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. NiSource said the class of plaintiffs included thousands of residents and businesses.
NiSource has already spent about $1 billion addressing explosions, and said the $143 million stems from a "voluntary mediation process" covering multiple class action lawsuits, "in which all parties engaged in good faith negotiations over several months."
"What happened last September was tragic," said NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock said in a statement. "Today marks another important step forward, as we continue to fulfill our commitment to residents and businesses. We are pleased that we have reached a resolution so swiftly."
NiSource and the proposed class of plaintiffs entered into an agreement in principle to resolve all class action litigation. The agreement must now be approved by a judge. Columbia Gas is still processing claims, the company said, and will continue to do so with oversight of the mediator, until the court gives preliminary approval to the settlement.
"All residents and businesses in Andover, Lawrence, and North Andover will be eligible to file claims through this process just as they currently can," the company said, promising more information in the coming weeks.
Along with the settlement, NiSource said it has completed restoration work in homes and businesses, including sourcing and installing nearly 18,500 new appliances and pieces of equipment. The company also said it provided temporary housing needs for affected residents, including sourcing more than 4,000 hotel rooms and other accommodations.
NTSB's review of the accident included several recommendations, including eliminating the state's current licensing exemption for work performed on public utility systems, which federal investigators identified as a missed oversight opportunity.