Hello Valley Patriot Readers,
The devastating events of September 18, 2018, which destroyed homes and buildings in communities in North Andover, Lawrence and Andover will be long remembered.
With negligible assistance from the Columbia Gas, residents turned to social media for help and called daily for relief from my office. Not only was restoration of service slow but communication to those affected was erratic, with conflicting information about which streets would be repaired and when.
People stayed home from work while waiting on the phone and in person for assistance, often being passed from one adjuster to another. They waited weeks for reimbursement – which often did not cover all of their costs. Many lost more than several days’ pay to keep appointments with adjusters, who often never showed up as scheduled.
Countless residents were relocated to hotels far from their homes and work. Due to poor communication between those hotels and the local gas company, some of those people were actually turned away from promised rooms. Those permitted to stay had hours added to commuting time.
In a deeply disheartening twist, our most vulnerable populations, seniors and the developmentally disabled – who should have received priority care and utmost attention – were forced to rely on local elected officials to assist them as their calls to the local gas company went nowhere.
People went from adjuster to adjuster getting less than they were promised – and far less than they deserved. They felt small and powerless against a big company that minimized their very real struggles.
It is imperative that we, their representatives, work hard to protect them.
That is why I filed legislation, Senate Bill 1952, which increases the 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’ (DPU) websites.
The legislation 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.
Furthermore, my bill requires an annual review by DPU pertaining to certified pipeline inspectors to ensure that an adequate number of certified inspectors are engaged in pipeline inspection across the Commonwealth.
As those affected continue to rebuild their lives nearly one year since the Columbia Gas explosions, this legislation will provide key tools to both hold gas companies accountable and prevent future incidents.
If you would like additional information on this or any other bill I am working on in this session, please contact me via e-mail at Diana.DiZoglio@masenate.gov or by phone at (617) 722-1604 anytime.
Yours in service,