AP NEWS

State Planning Hearings into Gas Disaster

November 20, 2018

By Matt Murphy

State House News Service

BOSTON -- The House and Senate are working to nail down dates for a trio of hearings on natural gas infrastructure that could deviate from a schedule publicly announced last week by the Senate.

Senate President Karen Spilka’s office caught House leaders off guard last week when it announced that senators would hold two hearings on Dec. 4 and Dec. 17 into natural gas infrastructure and the Merrimack Valley gas disaster.

The first hearing was to be in Boston and the second somewhere in the Merrimack Valley. Both House and Senate officials said Monday that those dates are now in flux.

Leaders from both branches are weighing the possibility of using Dec. 4 as the day for a hearing on a Rep. Jim O’Day bill concerning benefits for gas workers locked out since June by National Grid.

Under that scenario, the hearing on the safety of statewide gas infrastructure could be moved to Dec. 11. “That’s a possibility. It’s all in the works,” said Hannah Walford, a spokeswoman for Sen. Michael Barrett, the co-chair of the Committee on Telecommunication, Utilities and Energy.

Rep. Thomas Golden, a Lowell Democrat and co-chair of the committee in the House, said he’s “hopeful” that the hearing schedule would get ironed out Monday, but he said the House is still concerned about holding a hearing in the Merrimack Valley before local officials give the all-clear sign.

Golden told the News Service last week that Lawrence Mayor Dan Rivera and others had asked him and Speaker Robert DeLeo following the gas explosions to hold off on hearings until all residents were back in their homes with heat and cooking gas.

“We need to wait until the mayor and the manager are ready to go,” Golden said Monday.

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