Mayor Daniel Rivera releases the following statement regarding today’s announcement by the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities concerning Columbia Gas work on abandoned service lines:
This compliance issue, at its core, is a public safety issue. While Columbia Gas insists there is no immediate threat to public safety, I do not believe they are a credible source. Upon finding out about this issue, I met with major department heads and told Fire Chief Brian Moriarty and Police Chief Roy Vasque to be prepared to respond to any and all utility emergencies. This afternoon, I was briefed by Columbia Gas compliance team about the impact to Lawrence and their plan to fix this problem. As always, we are prepared and available to respond to any and all emergencies.
Since this oversight begs the question, what other compliance was overlooked or safety measures missed? I have been in communications with the Department of Public Utilities and the Secretary of the Executive Office of Energy and Environmental Affairs to see what other steps can be taken to ensure that we are safe on our homes while using gas.
At the very least, because Columbia Gas knew about this issue on July 30th and waited until the evening of September 11th- less than 48 hours before the anniversary of the gas disaster- DPU should immediately fine Columbia Gas $1M per day for the last thirty-three days that they sat on this information and did not communicate with DPU or any of the communities. This lack of transparency costs us time otherwise spent fixing the problem. Not only does this slow down the process of road restoration work that Lawrence was about to begin, it once again puts our back against a wall to fix a gas problem with the impending cold weather.
We are grateful for the state’s continued vigilance in holding Columbia Gas accountable and ensuring that they fulfill their responsibilities to Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. We will be monitoring the progress Columbia Gas makes with their compliance checks over the next several weeks and we encourage residents who have concerns to reach out directly to Columbia Gas. While Columbia Gas insists there is no danger to the public, I would like to reiterate that residents should always call 911 first if they smell gas, and that they should call Columbia Gas directly with any questions regarding their home gas service. Residents with abandoned service lines should expect a direct phone call from Columbia Gas to schedule an appointment and ensure compliance with the gas company’s obligations.
Residents may reach out to Columbia Gas at (866) 388-3239 with any questions related to this situation. A list of addresses that may be affected can be found at the link below.