LAWRENCE, MASS. —
Executives at the utility company responsible for September’s natural gas explosions and fires in Massachusetts should step down, congressional members said Monday at a special hearing into the disaster.
The six House and Senate members from Massachusetts and New Hampshire held the hearing at a packed middle school gymnasium in Lawrence. They took aim at the corporate culture at Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and its parent company, Indiana-based NiSource.
They painted a picture of a corporation that cut corners and lacked the internal procedures to prevent, let alone respond to, the Sept. 13 disaster that killed one person, injured dozens more, damaged more than 100 homes and left thousands without heat or hot water in the Merrimack Valley communities of Lawrence, North Andover and Andover.
The companies face federal and state investigations as well as class action lawsuits.
The National Transportation Safety Board has said that the company’s failure to account for pressure sensors in planning a routine pipeline replacement project in Lawrence led to the explosions and fires.
“At every step of the process, there was a chance to avoid this disaster,” said U.S. Sen. Ed Markey to company executives. “Instead of choosing safety, you chose savings. Instead of choosing to do things the right way, you chose to do things the easy way and the result was disaster.”
Joseph Hamrock, CEO of NiSource, and Steve Bryant, the president of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, said the company was taking steps to assure another disaster doesn’t happen.
That includes adopting many of the initial recommendations…