LAWRENCE, MA – Senator Maggie Hassan, a member of the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, today questioned executives from Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, as well as federal regulators, about the natural gas pipeline explosions and fires that occurred on September, 13, 2018, in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover, Massachusetts. The incident left one person dead, more than two dozen injured, and damaged more than 100 structures, including 5 homes.
“This can’t happen again,” Senator Hassan said. “And I’m sitting here saying that, and of course others have said that after other accidents, with your companies and others. It’s 2018 in the United States of America and nobody should be worried when they come home at night that their house is going to explode.”
Senator Hassan pressed Paul Roberti, Chief Counsel for the U.S. Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Administration (PHMSA), about the agency’s lack of urgency in implementing numerous congressional mandates to improve safety standards and regulations for America’s 2.6 million miles of pipeline.
“We have a gymnasium full of people – and a much larger community full of people – whose lives have been forever changed by this tragedy,” Senator Hassan said. “And they are looking now to make sure that we do more than rely on the private sector to regulate itself. They are looking to their state and federal governments to step up and make sure that we implement the rules that we have – and if we change some rules and implement some new ones to make sure that this never happens again – that PHMSA will be right up there. And I would like your agency’s guarantee that you will be initiating and pushing in ways that you haven’t in the past, asking Congress, asking the Administration for more resources if you need them, but this should not be an agency that is this woefully behind in implementing critical safety mandates that protect lives and the economy. Is that fair?”
In response, Mr. Roberti stated that he would commit his agency to meeting the congressional mandates and promised to share with states the findings of the Columbia Gas investigation in order to help states set standards to prevent another accident from occurring.
Other participants at the hearing included Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), Congresswoman Niki Tsongas (MA-03), Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06), and Congresswoman-elect Lori Trahan (MA-03).