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Mass. governor signs law requiring engineer's approval of gas utility work

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Mass. governor signs law requiring engineer's approval of gas utility work

Massachusetts' governor signed into law a bill that required gas utilities to receive a sign-off from a certified engineer for their work plans, in an effort to improve safety and oversight after a deadly series of gas explosions and fires hit communities near Boston in September 2018.

Gov. Charlie Baker's November 2018 legislative proposal followed a string of urgent safety recommendations made by the National Transportation Safety Board, or NTSB, about two months after the disaster. Under the new law, any public utility planning engineering work or services "that could pose a material risk to public safety" should be reviewed and approved by a certified professional engineer.

Baker signed the bill into law Dec. 31, 2018, immediately after the state legislature passed the bill. "This bill will make Massachusetts' natural gas infrastructure safer by requiring all utilities to follow the NTSB's additional oversight measures developed in the aftermath of the Merrimack Valley explosions," Baker said in a tweet on the same day.

The fires and blasts in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover, Mass., left one person dead, at least 21 people injured and 131 structures damaged, according to the NTSB. An investigation found that overpressurization of the gas distribution system operated by NiSource Inc. subsidiary Columbia Gas of Massachusetts was to blame for the disaster.