NiSource Inc., the parent company of Columbia Gas of Massachusetts, says third-party claims related to the Merrimack Valley gas disaster could cost more than $1 billion.

In its February report of 2018 fourth-quarter financial results, NiSource said it had lost $757 million as a result of third-party claims tied to the Sept. 13 gas explosions and fires, plus another roughly $266 million in other related expenses.

But NiSource upped its estimates for the total cost of the disaster in its quarterly filing released Wednesday.

NiSource said it spent about $204 million in the quarter that ended March 31 for third-party claims including personal injury, property damage, infrastructure damage and mutual aid payments to other utilities that helped in the restoration effort. The company now estimates claims will total between $961 million and $1.01 billion.

“This increase was driven by final billings for construction and emergency response expenses, as well as adjustments made to reserves for legal, liability and settlement expenses,” NiSource spokesman Ken Stammen said.

Stammen said NiSource remains “focused on customer support and restoration efforts in the Merrimack Valley.” About 600 claims remain open. On Tuesday, Columbia Gas said it settled a lawsuit with a Lawrence, Mass., family whose members were injured in the blasts.

The National Transportation Safety Board, U.S Attorney’s office and Securities and Exchange Commission are investigating the gas companies over the Merrimack Valley incident. The state Department of Public Utilities and Attorney General’s Office opened inquiries as well.

Wednesday, December 11, 2019
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