At the end of July 2019, a $143 million settlement was announced, connected to a September 2018 Massachusetts natural gas explosion that left one resident dead and 25 other residents injured. Other individuals were also affected, as 100 buildings and homes in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover were damaged. Due to the shared misfortune following the explosion, a class action lawsuit was filed against Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and NiSource Inc. A judge is now left to evaluate the terms of the settlement for approval. In the opinion of some, $143 million is only a small price to pay for the inconvenience and suffering of those who were forced to live without services of natural gas and must also rebuild their lives and homes.
On September 13, 2018, about 30,000 residents were evacuated from their homes after intense pressure built up in the Columbia Gas of Massachusetts lines, causing 80 separate fires and blasts throughout Merrimack Valley. Columbia Gas and NiSource did act quickly in shutting off natural gas services to homes and businesses in order to fix the issue. Governor Baker announced a state of emergency and sought the help of Eversource Energy to evaluate the safety of residents returning to their homes and restoring electricity. While residents were able to use their electricity again three days after the explosion, some establishments that required natural gases remained unopened.
This class action settlement is separate from another $80 million settlement, intended to pay for the destruction of infrastructure in Merrimack Valley. Two other lawsuits were filed on behalf of two families who faced perhaps the largest impact from the blast. In April, a family in Lawrence faced considerable damage to their home and members also suffered bodily injuries. NiSource Inc also settled a lawsuit in July with the family of the young man who was identified as the only fatality. The 18-year-old died after the chimney to a home crumbled onto his car. The settlement amounts or terms of both lawsuits are not publicly known.