Feb. 26 (UPI) -- A Massachusetts gas company responsible for a series of explosions that killed one person in 2018 has agreed to pay a $53 million criminal fine, federal prosecutors announced Wednesday.
As part of the settlement, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts pleaded guilty to violating the national Pipeline Safety Act for failing to prevent the over-pressurization of its gas system.
The explosions in September 2018 destroyed 80 structures and also injured at least 25 people in the towns of Andover, Lawrence and North Andover.
The U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Massachusetts said the fine represents twice Columbia Gas' profits between 2015 and 2018 from a pipeline infrastructure program. In addition to the fine, the company will be subject to monitoring for three years to ensure its compliance with state and federal regulations.
Federal prosecutors also entered into a deferred prosecution agreement with Columbia Gas' parent company, NiSource, which agreed to "undertake their best reasonable efforts" to sell the gas company. Once sold, both Columbia Gas and NiSource will agree to stop all gas pipeline operations in Massachusetts.
NiSource also agreed to forfeit any profit from the sale of Columbia Gas.
In May, Columbia Gas reached an $80 million settlement with the communities of the blast, agreeing to pay 50 percent of the total to Lawrence, 30 percent to Andover and 20 percent to North Andover.
The funds were expected to go toward repairing roads and sidewalks damaged by the blasts, and other losses and expenses incurred by the towns. Workers dug up some 50 miles of roadways to repair gas lines in the region.