Merrillville-based NiSource, parent of NIPSCO, announced Feb. 26 it is selling its business unit Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to Eversource Energy, a New England utility that serves about 4 million customers in Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire.
Columbia Gas, which serves more than 320,000 customers in Massachusetts, will increase Eversource’s natural gas customer base to 626,000, spread across more than 60 communities in Massachusetts, according to NiSource.
The estimated purchase price is $1.1 billion. The deal, which is pending regulatory approval, is expected to close by the fall.
“We believe this transaction will create the right next chapter for the customers and communities that Columbia Gas of Massachusetts serves throughout the state, and provide Columbia Gas employees an opportunity to join a strong organization with deep roots in the region,” Joe Hamrock, president and CEO of NiSource, said in a statement. “Eversource is one of the most respected energy companies in the country with a strong operational track record in the New England area, and we believe they are focused on investing in Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to further improve system operations, including to enhance safety, pipeline integrity and reliability programs.”
NiSource said with Eversource's resources and facilities located near Columbia Gas's customer homes and businesses, NiSource believes Eversource “will work collaboratively with stakeholders to incorporate best industry practices and bring additional benefits to customers.”
A string of natural gas explosions occurred on Sept. 13, 2018 across three cities within Columbia Gas’s service area, causing extensive property damage and at least one death as well as more than two dozen injuries, according to news reports of the incident. A government investigation determined contract maintenance workers were replacing gas pipelines and incorrectly used a bypass that led to high-pressure natural gas being released into a low-pressure system.
Numerous lawsuits followed and all eventually were settled by Columbia Gas for $143 million in July 2019, according to news reports.
Mark Kempic, president and chief operating officer of Columbia Gas, said Eversource is the right partner for Columbia Gas.
“While we have taken significant restoration and safety steps over the past 17 months, we acknowledge that events have led many to lose trust in Columbia Gas,” Kempic said. “We believe that Eversource's proven track record of investing in its infrastructure, employees and operations to enhance system reliability, combined with its deep familiarity with the region and our operations, will enable Columbia Gas of Massachusetts to be a part of a strong local gas distribution company.”
NiSource said until the sale closes, it will continue its work on safety enhancements in Columbia Gas’s service area.
Northern Indiana Public Service Co. serves about 820,000 natural gas and 460,000 electric customers across 32 counties in Northern Indiana.