Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and its parent company, NiSource Inc. has announced the settlement of all pending class actions lawsuits against it resulting from the September 13, 2018 Columbia Gas event in the Merrimack Valley.
The settlement agreement is subject to court approval
While Columbia Gas and the proposed class of plaintiffs have agreed to the terms of the settlement, the Agreement of Approval now must be formerly approved by the court. While the Settlement Agreement is still pending the ongoing company-managed claims process, established immediately after the September 13th, is still processing claims. The company says it will continue to do so, overseen by the mediator, until such time that the Court gives its preliminary approval of the Settlement Agreement. Once that is done, a Settlement Claims Administrator will then take over the managing-claims process.
Until such time, all residents and businesses in Andover, Lawrence, and North Andover will be eligible to file claims through this process just as they currently can. More information on this will be made available in the coming weeks.
Other redress intiatives by Columbia Gas
In addition to the $143 million designated for the Settlement Agreement, Columbia Gas has earmarked a total of $1 billion to address the needs of the affected customers, residents, and communities. The following is a lit of other settlements and payments it intends to use the $1 billion for:
- Restoration work conducted in homes and businesses, including sourcing and installing nearly 18,500 new appliances and pieces of equipment (i.e. boilers, furnaces, ranges, and dryers).
- Temporary housing needs for affected residents, including sourcing more than 4,000 hotel rooms, more than 160 one, two, and three bedroom apartments, and more than 200 RVs. At its peak, more than 2,200 families, totaling more than 8,000 individuals, utilized temporary housing.
- Funds paid to residents and businesses through the Columbia Gas-managed claims process thus far.
- The April announcement of a settlement with the Figueroa family, of Lawrence, which had several individuals injured as a result of the incident.
- The May announcement that the company and the affected municipalities Andover, Lawrence, and North Andover agreed to an $80 million settlement covering reimbursement of expenses and claims by the municipalities and curb-to-curb repairs of roadways.
- The July announcement of a settlement between the company and the family of Leonel Rondon , the young man who lost his life on September 13, 2018.
The company says that the total cost of the recovery related to the Merrimack Valley Incident will be related in NiSource’s second quarter earnings report.