Eversource Energy announced Wednesday that it has reached an agreement to purchase the Massachusetts natural gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion from NiSource.
The acquisition will bring Columbia Gas operations in Massachusetts under local ownership by the largest energy company in New England, Eversource said in a news release after the stock markets closed.
Eversource and NiSource expect to close the transaction by the end of the third quarter of this year.
The announcement came the same day as the announcement that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts agreed to pay a criminal fine of $53 million in a plea agreement with federal prosecutors over the 2018 gas explosions in the Merrimack Valley that killed one person, injured many others and damaged homes and businesses.
Contacted after the announcement, spokesman Reid Lamberty said Eversource didn’t know that the plea agreement would be announced Wednesday.
The transaction will require approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the U.S. Justice Department under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.
The companies said that, under the asset purchase agreement, liabilities related to the Merrimack Valley explosions will remain the responsibility of Columbia Gas’ current parent company, NiSource.
Columbia Gas was also held at fault for a 2012 gas explosion in Springfield. The city reached an $850,000 settlement with NiSource in 2013. NiSource also reached private agreements with individual landowners and businesses.
Columbia Gas currently serves 330,000 natural gas customers in more than 60 communities in Massachusetts.
Eversource has 300,000 natural gas customers already, in addition to its 1.5 million electric customers in 51 communities across the state. Many communities that Columbia Gas serves with natural gas already receive electric service from Eversource.
In total, Columbia Gas has more than 700 employees across its Massachusetts service territory. Eversource has more than 8,000 employees across Massachusetts, Connecticut and New Hampshire.
Eversource will make offers of employment to all Columbia Gas employees on terms and conditions similar to those that apply to its own workforce, Lamberty said.
He said Eversource will work with consumer groups and regulators over the next 30 days as the purchase is reviewed by regulators.