DiZoglio Bill Aims to Prevent Disasters, Hold Gas Utilities Accountable

First responders and media gathered in Lawrence in the wake of gas-related fires across the Merrimack Valley Sept. 13, 2018. (Jay Saulnier file photograph for WHAV News.)

Sen. Diana DiZoglio (file photograph.)

In light of last year’s natural gas-fueled fires and explosions in the Valley, state Sen. Diana DiZoglio wants a tough new law to hold utilities accountable and prevent future incidents.

She has sponsored legislation designed to increase 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’ websites.

“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. She added, “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.”

DiZoglio said September’s gas leak in the City of Lawrence shows the need for “key tools in our efforts to avert future disasters and ensure gas companies are held responsible for their actions.”

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.

Further, the legislation requires an annual review by the state to ensure an adequate number of certified inspectors are engaged in pipeline inspection across the Commonwealth. Two other DiZoglio bills create a gas disaster relief fund to help ensure ratepayers don’t bear the brunt of costs associated with such an event.

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