Columbia Gas set to feel senators heat

Columbia Gas set to feel senators\ heat

Sister of teen killed in gas explosions wants justice for her brother

Lucianny Rondon, sister of 18-year-old Leonel Rondon, delivered her impassioned remarks during testimony before the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation, which held a special hearing in Lawrence to review the Sept. 13 blasts that claimed Rondon’s life..

“We will never forget him,” Lucianny Rondon said. “We will not let this loss be without meaning. The grief we feel is unbearable but we know Leonel would want us to stay strong. We will stand with the community on his behalf.”

She said Leonel “even as a young boy, was so kind to others. He shoveled the snow for our neighbors. He carried groceries for the older people in our neighborhood. We will not have the joy of seeing the wonderful man we know he would have become. I stand in front of you in his honor. I will never have my brother back.”

However, she said, “we hope there will be justice for him and the community. Nobody should ever go through what my family has gone through ever again. Thank you.”

Leonel Rondon, a student at Phoenix Charter Academy in Lawrence, died after a chimney from a house that exploded toppled onto the vehicle he was sitting in at a friend’s house on Chickering Road.

Federal regulators have said Columbia Gas of Massachusetts failed to relocate an underground pressure sensor from an abandoned pipe during construction work in Lawrence in September, triggering a gush of gas into the local network that erupted into explosions and fires.

The construction work involved replacing aging pipes in the area with plastic lines. Investigators found the utility failed to tell the construction crew about disconnecting or relocating the sensor, allowing the device to detect a drop-off in pressure in the abandoned line and signal to a nearby control station to increase the flow of gas into the system.

Earlier this month, the NTSB singled out a Columbia Gas engineer with “limited knowledge” for errors in drafting work plans for a Lawrence construction site, setting in motion a chain of events that led to the Sept. 13 natural gas explosions.

In the most detailed accounting to date of the catastrophe, the National Transportation Safety Board identified a series of missteps by the utility at the planning stages for a gas main replacement project in South Lawrence. The agency recommended “urgent” steps to increase oversight within the company and at the state level.

LAWRENCE (CBS/AP) — A U.S. Senate committee is holding a hearing in Massachusetts to review the response to the natural gas pipeline explosions in the Merrimack Valley.

Democratic Sen. Ed Markey says the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation will convene a full committee hearing Monday in the South Lawrence East Middle School gymnasium.

Among those scheduled to appear are the chairman of the National Transportation Safety Board; Steve Bryant, president of Columbia Gas; and Joe Hamrock, president of Columbia’s parent company, NiSource.

The hearing will be available for live online viewing at the Commerce Committee website and translated into Spanish.

“My father is from Lawrence. I’m going right back to where my father grew up,” Markey said. “I want to make sure all of those people are made whole. This is personal for me. I don’t want those people to have to suffer unnecessarily.”

Melanie Antolick, who was forced out of her home and into temporary housing due to the blasts, has one main question.

I want to know whos responsible for all of this, she said. Its been really hard considering that we have propane here and sometimes in the middle of the night it shuts off and they have to come and change the tank. So thats really inconvenient for us to wake up at 4 a.m. with no heat.

The hearing will focus on responses to the Sept. 13 explosions and fires in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover that killed one, injured about two dozen, and damaged more than 100 structures.

I think it says a lot that there are a lot of people concerned about the natural gas infrastructure not only in the Commonwealth but nationwide. Hopefully they have their listening ears on and we can get some changes in the industry to make it much safer for the communities that have natural gas infrastructure in them.”

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