Republican Lawmaker Pushes for New Gas Safety Regulations Following Columbia Gas Whistleblower’s Claims

Bruce Tarr's legislation follows NBC10 Boston's interview with a former Columbia gas employee who says he sounded the alarm on staff cuts months before the gas disaster.

A gas safety bill is one step closer to reality in Massachusetts.

Legislation requiring a verified engineer to approve all natural gas work passed the state Senate Thursday, but after an NBC10 Boston Investigators report this month about a lack of workers monitoring pressure systems, the top Republican in the Senate is also pushing for more.

Republican Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr says he not only supports Gov. Charlie Baker's bill, which would tighten gas regulations in the wake of the Merrimack Valley disaster, but he's also filing his own legislation.

Tarr's legislation follows NBC10 Boston's interview with a former Columbia gas employee who says he sounded the alarm on staff cuts months before the gas disaster.

"We've also learned about some other things, one of them coming from a story on NBC10, where we had a former employee of the gas company indicating that four years ago, give or take, there was starting to be a curtailment of the people in the meters and regulation department that would actually measure gas as projects were undertaken," said Tarr.

The senator's hometown newspaper, the Gloucester Times, in an editorial, made reference to NBC10 Boston's interview with the whistleblower.

Tarr says his legislation would require a gas employee at every project measuring the gas pressure.

"What we're proposing is, that shouldn't be optional. That should be something the Department of Public Utilities requires on every project in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts," he said.

Previously, the interview prompted responses from Democratic U.S. Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey, both of whom demanded answers to the questions the whistleblower raised. Markey later promised Congressional hearings into whether Columbia Gas ignored the employee's warnings.

Tarr says he'll file his bill in the upcoming session in January.

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