Bulletin 2018-05 addresses the Emergency Procedures related to the Merrimack Valley Gas Incident
Commissioner of Insurance Gary Anderson has issued a new Bulletin addressing how the insurance community should handle the insurance claim emergency caused by the personal injuries and property losses suffered in last month’s gas lines explosions. The explosions affected the communities in Andover, North Andover and Lawrence resulting in 1 death and hundreds of injuries as well as extensive damage to property.
In commenting on the need for a specific Bulletin addressing this incident, Commissioner Anderson wrote, “In light of the significant damage and in order to provide ongoing support for recovery efforts in these areas, the Division of Insurance (“Division”) offers the following guidance and recommendations.”
Those recommendations include guidelines with respect to Claims Handling, Premium and Vacancy Provisions and Underwriting. The Division says that it will be closely monitoring the situation with respect to both the recovery and insurance claims process. For those insurers with claims-related issues or other questions, the DOI asks that those questions be directed to Matthew M. Mancini, Director of the State Rating Bureau, at (617) 521-7459 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For those insurers interested in reviewing the original Bulletin, view the DOI Bulletin 2018-05 here.
The Attorney General has also issued a letter to Columbia Gas with regards to last month’s explosions
In addition to the Division’s new Bulletin, Attorney General Maura Healey also addressed the Merrimack Valley Gas Incident by sending a formal letter to the President & Director of Columbia Gas.
In the correspondence dated September 27, 2018, the AG was “demanding answers” on how the company planned to safely and quickly restore gas to residents of the affected communities as well as the fair compensation it has pledged to the those who were injured. She also noted that her office plans to meet with the company this month.
In the wake of this tragedy, I have heard from many residents and businesses who have suffered significant losses yet remain in the dark about Columbia Gas’ claims process and the plans for restoring gas service,” said AG Healey. “I am demanding information from Columbia Gas about their specific plans because these people need and deserve answers and clarity as they rebuild their lives and communities.”
The letter requests clarification on 11 points involving the commitments and promises Columbia Gas has made to rectify for the losses suffered on September 13th. The eleven points the AG cited were:
- Ensuring that pipes are replaced in a safe manner and that the new pipes will result in a safe gas distribution service going forward.
- Ensuring the safety of all its Massachusetts territories while working on recovery efforts in its Merrimack Valley territory.
- Making sure that customers are receiving timely and complete information regarding the company’s restoration plan, including considering a text-messaging or similar real-time communications system (with an opt-out provision) that would reach all affected customers.
- Developing a plan for paying the electric bills of its customers who are forced to rely on electric space heaters and hot plates.
- Accommodating customers who choose to make alternative housing arrangements.
- Clarifying how the company intends to pay customers for losses incurred related to this disaster.
- Providing the AG’s Office with copies of the company’s internal claims procedure and any claims form it intends to use.
- Ensuring affected customers can easily obtain alternative heating sources for their homes and, if they choose, permanently transition to energy-efficient, clean technologies without any additional costs.
- Addressing how work will be completed if a property owner is not present to authorize repairs.
- Clarifying in a written statement its plan to not bill affected customers for any gas service until service is restored.
- Confirming and ensuring that customers will not pay for any part of this disaster through the regulatory ratemaking process.
In addition to sending out this letter, the AG’s Office also has created a new homepage for customers needing resources or looking to report a claim in connection with the Merrimack Valley Gas incident: https://www.mass.gov/resources-and-advice-for-merrimack-valley-residents.