Senate to Hold Gas Hearings in December
By Matt Murphy
State House News Service
BOSTON -- The Senate plans to move forward in December, without the House, and hold hearings into the gas explosions and the safety of natural gas infrastructure in Massachusetts.
Two months after an over pressurization incident caused explosions and fires and killed one, Senate President Karen Spilka’s office said the Senate will hold an oversight hearing on Dec. 4 in Boston to look into the gas industry and the infrastructure in Massachusetts.
A second hearing will be held Dec. 17 in the Merrimack Valley and will focus on the specifics of the incident there, which knocked out gas service to thousands, many of whom are still without heat.
“I share the many concerns that have been raised about our gas industry over the past several months,” Spilka said in a statement. “As we approach the cold winter months, we need answers to the questions residents are asking, including wanting to understand precisely what happened in the Merrimack Valley; is our current state oversight appropriate; and how workforce issues are impacting the industry, among other things.”
Senate and House leaders announced jointly in October their intention to hold an oversight hearing, but they said at the time that they intended to wait until after the Nov. 19 deadline for full restoration of heat and hot water service to residents “so as to not distract from the work required to complete that restoration.”
That restoration deadline has since been extended to mid-December. A spokeswoman for House Speaker Robert DeLeo said the speaker would not have anything to say Tuesday about the House not participating in the newly scheduled December hearings.
Sen. Michael Barrett, co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy, will play a lead role in the hearing, according to an aide to Spilka, but it’s unclear which other senators will participate in the questioning.
The original plan was for Barrett and Rep. Thomas Golden, as co-chairs of the Telecommunications, Utilities and Energy Committee, to lead the oversight investigation.
“We must determine whether state oversight of the gas industry and our gas infrastructure are working as they should,” Barrett said in a statement. “As much-needed recovery efforts proceed, it’s time for the Legislature to examine issues specific to the industry to ensure such accidents don’t happen again.”