Massachusetts lawmakers ask Columbia Gas to halt rate hike after explosions

U.S. Sens. Markey and Warren joined Reps. Moulton and Trahan in a letter asking the utility company to cancel a rate increase announced earlier this month.

A worker with Columbia gas stands over an open man hole as the crew works to make sure there are no gas leaks at the corner of Parker and Salem Streets in Lawrence, Mass., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018.
A worker with Columbia gas stands over an open man hole as the crew works to make sure there are no gas leaks at the corner of Parker and Salem Streets in Lawrence, Mass., Friday, Sept. 14, 2018. –Mary Schwalm/AP Photo

LAWRENCE, Mass. (AP) — Members of Massachusetts’ congressional delegation are criticizing Columbia Gas for planning a rate hike on Merrimack Valley customers affected by September’s natural gas explosions.

U.S. Sens. Edward Markey and Elizabeth Warren joined Reps. Seth Moulton and Lori Trahan on Tuesday in a letter asking the utility company to cancel a rate increase announced earlier this month. The Democrats also called on the company to halt efforts to collect retroactive payment for gas service.

The company had suspended gas payments following the disaster as communities recovered, but the lawmakers say residents are now receiving sizeable backdated bills due in January. They say the costs place an “untenable strain” on struggling families.

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Company spokespeople didn’t comment. A teen was killed, two dozen people injured and more than 100 structures destroyed or damaged in the disaster.

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