The Latest: Moody’s warns of negative impact of explosions
BOSTON (AP) — The Latest on natural gas explosions in Massachusetts (all times local):
Moody’s Investor’s Service says the gas explosions and fires in Massachusetts are likely to damage the finances of Columbia Gas and its parent company.
In comments issued Tuesday, the Wall Street credit rating firm said the disaster was “credit negative” for Columbia and NiSource Inc., and may cause “the deterioration of each company’s financial position.”
Moody’s also predicted a more “contentious” regulatory relationship in the future, noting the event was already being politicized, with Republican Gov. Charlie Baker’s decision to put another utility in charge of restoration efforts.
Moody’s noted that shareholders of Pacific Gas & Electric were forced to fund $4 billion in costs and penalties after a 2010 gas pipeline explosion killed eight people and destroyed 38 homes in San Bruno, California.
One person died and more than two dozen were hurt in last week’s explosions and fires.
The president of the utility that serves the three Massachusetts communities affected by a series of natural gas fires and explosions says the company is donating $10 million to a relief fund.
Columbia Gas President Stephen Bryant made the announcement Tuesday at a news conference attended by Gov. Charlie Baker and leaders of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover.
The Republican governor said the Greater Lawrence Disaster Relief Fund will help residents of the three communities with food, housing and other immediate needs as they recover from last Thursday’s fires that killed one and injured two dozen others.
Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera, who has been highly critical of Columbia Gas, said the utility is “living up to their corporate responsibility” with the donation.
The cause remains under investigation, but early reports indicate over-pressurized gas lines are to blame.
The pressure in natural gas pipelines prior to a series of explosions and fires in Massachusetts last week was 12 times higher than it should have been.
The information was in a letter from the state’s U.S. senators to the heads of Columbia Gas, the company that serves the communities of Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, and NiSource, the parent company of Columbia Gas.
Democratic Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey sent the letter Monday seeking answers to questions about the explosions.
The letter says that according to the Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, “the pressure in the system should have been around 0.5 pounds per square inch, but readings in the area reached at least 6 PSI.”
The explosions and fires killed one person and injured more than two dozen.