Eversource to Acquire Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Assets for $1.1 Billion

(UC) — Eversource Energy announced that it has reached an agreement to purchase the Massachusetts natural gas assets of Columbia Gas for $1.1 billion from NiSource.

The announcement comes one day after NiSource agreed to pay a $53 million criminal pipeline safety fine and plead guilty to violating federal pipeline safety laws in a fatal gas explosion in September 2018. The company also agreed to sell its Massachusetts business.

The acquisition will bring Columbia Gas operations in Massachusetts under local ownership by the largest energy company in New England.

Columbia Gas currently serves 330,000 natural gas customers in more than 60 communities in Massachusetts. Eversource has 300,000 natural gas customers and 1.5 million electric customers in 51 communities across the commonwealth. Many communities that Columbia Gas serves with natural gas already receive electric service from Eversource.

Under the asset purchase agreement, liabilities related to the September 2018 gas distribution incidents in the Merrimack Valley will remain the responsibility of Columbia Gas’s current parent company, NiSource.

Eversource recently announced an industry-leading strategy to achieve carbon neutrality in its operations by 2030. The energy company will extend the same carbon reduction initiatives in the extended service territory of Columbia Gas in order to achieve that aggressive goal.

“We have a strong track record of investing in infrastructure to significantly improve the reliability and safety of our systems,” said Eversource Gas President Bill Akley.

The company plans to finance the transaction with a balance of new equity and debt that maintains its strong credit profile.

The transaction will require approval from the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities and the U.S. Justice Department under the Hart-Scott-Rodino Act.

Eversource and Columbia Gas intend to engage with key regulatory stakeholders and consumer advocates over the next 30 days to review the investments needed to operate the system.

The parties expect to close the transaction by the end of the third quarter 2020.

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