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Springfield Republican: US Sen. Ed Markey seeks additional answers on Merrimack Valley gas explosions

U.S. Sens. Ed Markey, D-Massachusetts, continued to press Columbia Gas executives Thursday for details on what led to a series of gas explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover last month.

The senator, who had requested information on the Merrimack Valley gas explosions in a late-September letter, criticized Columbia Gas of Massachusetts — operated by NiSource Inc. — for failing to provide such answers in its two-paragraph response.

Markey called NiSource President and CEO Joe Hamrock’s Oct. 9 letter “unacceptable,” said he hopes officials follow through on their promise to “provide full answers by Monday.”

“That had better be true,” he tweeted along with a picture of Hamrock’s letter.

The Massachusetts Democrat further offered that the National Transportation Safety Board’s preliminary report on the explosions, which was released Thursday, “raises more questions than answers about how the Merrimack Valley disaster occurred.”

“I will not stop until we get each and every answer,” he said in a statement. “We need to turn over every stone and shine a light on the workings of this company and the entire industry so that people can both trust their gas system is safe and verify that nothing like this will ever happen again. The fate of families and small businesses depends on it.”

Hamrock, in his response to the senator’s Oct. 4 letter, offered that his company had “been advised that the NTSB will not permit us, as a party to the investigation, to respond to questions about the cause of the incident that occurred in the Greater Lawrence area on Sept. 13.”

The NTSB report detailed the explosions and fires caused by over-pressurization of a Columbia Gas distribution system. It noted that the board’s investigation remains ongoing.