State Eases National Grid Moratorium Amid Lockout—With Safety Conditions

(Photograph courtesy of Clean Energy Fuels.)

The Department of Public Utilities has eased a moratorium on the type of work National Grid employees can do during the lockout. (Photograph courtesy of Clean Energy Fuels.)

The state’s Department of Public Utilities has eased a moratorium on National Grid work as the employee lockout continues—with several new safety conditions.

According to State House News Service, regulators are ordering National Grid to have gas work plans reviewed and approved by a certified professional engineer and have imposed a new oversight requirement on the company. In the process, the moratorium on all non-emergency and non-compliance work across the utility's service territory is eased, an administration official told the News Service.

National Grid, which locked out about 1,200 of its gas workers in June and has been found by DPU to have potential violations of federal pipeline safety regulations, will now be able to conduct non-compliance work but it must conform to the new rules imposed Wednesday by DPU.

The order, in place indefinitely, requires safety-sensitive National Grid gas work to be reviewed by an engineer and given a professional engineer's seal before taking place. The DPU order also requires, based on the type of work being conducted, varying degrees of direct supervision by experienced individuals.

It also requires the company to report each day to the DPU on the number of inspectors present at every location where it conducted gas pipeline work. If National Grid does not follow the new directives, it will face fines of up to $200,000 per violation and $2,000,000 for each continuing violation.

In July, Haverhill city councilors, with the support of Mayor James J. Fiorentini, voted unanimously to withhold permits for anything but emergency projects to show their displeasure with the company’s actions.