Congresswoman Lori Trahan Applauds Inclusion of Her Appropriations Request to Help Deliver Colombia Gas Settlement Funds to Affected Communities
Washington, July 14, 2020
LOWELL, MA – Today, Congresswoman Lori Trahan (MA-03) applauded the inclusion of language she requested in the House’s appropriations package to press the Department of Justice (DOJ) to use its authority to direct discretionary funds from a pipeline violation settlement to affected communities. Trahan requested the inclusion of this language to ensure that funds from the Columbia Gas settlement will go to help the victims of the Merrimack Valley gas explosions.
“Nearly two years after the Merrimack Valley gas explosions, victims in Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover are still wondering if they’ll ever get the justice and relief they deserve. I promised the victims I’d do everything in my power to get them what they’re owed. The inclusion of this language is an important step toward getting the Justice Department to direct those funds to support the victims still in need of help here in the Merrimack Valley,” Congresswoman Trahan said.
As the House began negotiations on Fiscal Year 2021 funding, Trahan successfully requested that the House Appropriations Committee use its jurisdiction over the DOJ’s budget to include language encouraging the Department to use money from the Crime Victims Fund to provide funding for the salaries of personnel who provide services to victims, including first responders, social workers, and others. Communities like Lawrence, Andover, and North Andover stand to benefit from the inclusion of this language that specifically requests that DOJ increase deposits into the Crime Victim Fund from settlements arising from violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act.
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts submitted a guilty plea in federal court in February for violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act that led to the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. The plea prompted Trahan to lead a request from members of the federal delegation to the Department of Justice requesting that they ensure that funds from a criminal settlement be used to support those affected by the explosions.
Trahan has continued to advocate for the $56 million federal settlement to be directed back to the communities to assist the victims and families harmed by the gas explosions. She has also introduced legislation with Senator Edward J. Markey (D-MA), Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Congressman Seth Moulton (MA-06) to enact tough new rules on gas pipeline operators and prevent other communities from having to experience a tragedy like the Merrimack Valley gas explosions. This legislation recently passed out of the House Energy and Commerce Committee as part of the SAFER Pipeline Act.
The House will be voting on the appropriations package in late July.