January 15, 2019

Massachusetts Lawmakers Decry Large Backdated Gas Bills for Merrimack Valley Natural Gas Disaster Impacted Families

Warren, Markey, Moulton and Trahan ask company to commit to immediately suspend planned winter rate increase in Greater Lawrence service area

Text of the Letter (PDF)

Washington, DC - United States Senators Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) and Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), and Representatives Seth Moulton (D-Mass.) and Lori Trahan (D-Mass.) today asked Columbia Gas of Massachusetts and NiSource why customers impacted by the Merrimack Valley natural gas explosions and fire are receiving large backdated bills with due dates in January after the company assured they would not, highlighting the lack of communication with residents about the bills. They also asked the company to immediately suspend any planned winter rate increase on communities in the Merrimack Valley, calling it “abhorrent” that Columbia Gas would attempt to institute even a business-as-usual rate increase on communities that have been dealing with the impacts of the September 13 disaster that killed one, injured dozens, and displaced more than a thousand households and businesses.

“Your company’s actions are placing an untenable strain on the budgets of far too many local residents,” wrote the lawmakers in their letter to Columbia Gas of Massachusetts President and COO Stephen Bryant and NiSource President and CEO Joseph Hamrock. “At a time when families are often stretching their budgets to cover holiday expenses and higher bills, an unexpected bill of hundreds of dollars can come as an unwelcome devastating surprise.”

In the letter, the lawmakers ask Columbia Gas and NiSource to respond to questions that include:

  • Is it clearly stated on bills that customers have options to pay the bill in installments or that they have access to a time extension to make back payments?
  • If customers are unable to pay the sizable bills in one month, what options is the company offering for deferred or delayed payment, without late charges?
  • How is the company making all of its customers in the region aware of alternative options or services?
  • How is the company calculating the reimbursement generated by alternative heating sources for those customers who installed such sources?