SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – Columbia Gas has cleared the debt of thousands of low-income customers in its former service territories affected by the Merrimack Valley gas explosions back in 2018.
A senior spokesperson for the state Attorney General’s Office on Monday announced the distribution of $15 million, to more than 17,700 low-income customers in Springfield, Brockton, and Greater Lawrence.
The money was distributed by credit in the November bills, Attorney General Maura Healey’s Office said. The average customer received $868.24, and covered the amount of the customer’s debt as of June 30.
“The settlement our office reached with Columbia Gas this summer paved the way for thousands of low-income customers in and around Brockton, Lawrence, and Springfield, who were struggling to pay their heating bills, to receive a credit this winter. We hope that this credit will ease some of their burden during this holiday season.”Attorney General Maura Healey
The $15 million is part of a $56 million settlement the state reached with Columbia Gas in the summer for its role in the gas explosions that killed one person.
The remaining $41 million is in a Merrimack Valley Renewal Fund and it will go toward the funding of clean energy programs and grants for homeowners, tenants, businesses, and municipalities, according to the AG’s Office. “This fund is being managed by the AG’s Office and the Department of Energy Resources. It will finance a variety of programs through direct grants, competitive requests for proposals, leveraging existing programs, and local partnerships.”
Since the explosions, Columbia has been ordered out of Massachusetts. Eversource Energy also reached an agreement to buy the Massachusetts natural gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion.