Columbia Gas no longer seeking to hike rates for Massachusetts customers

LAWRENCE, MASS. (WHDH) - Columbia Gas says it is no longer planning to raise rates for customers in Massachusetts after expressing interest in doing so prior to last week’s deadly gas disaster in Lawrence, North Andover, and Andover.

The company withdrew a proposed $33 million rate increase Wednesday after officials say overpressurized gas lines led to more than 70 explosions and fires last Thursday.

letter sent by the state’s U.S. senators to executives at Columbia Gas and its parent company, NiSource, on Monday said the pressure in natural gas pipelines was 12 times higher than it should have been.

An estimated 8,600 residents across the Merrimack Valley were evacuated from their homes and they may be without gas for several weeks.

The president of the utility announced that the company would be donating $10 million to the disaster relief fund.

Lawyers filed a class-action lawsuit Tuesday on behalf of people who were forced out of their homes. It accuses the utility companies of negligence and seeks compensation for residents of who had to evacuate but didn’t suffer injuries or damage to their homes.

Leonel Rondon, 18, was killed when one of the blasts knocked a chimney onto his SUV. Dozens of others were injured.

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