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Columbia Gas of Massachusetts said Friday that its embattled president, Steve Bryant, will retire.
Bryant had resisted calls for his resignation in the wake of the company's natural-gas disaster in the Merrimack Valley, which killed one man and left thousands of residents without heat and hot water for weeks in the fall and early winter.
In a statement, Pablo Vegas, president of gas utilities at Columbia's parent company, NiSource, said Bryant "dedicated his career to the important work of providing gas service to his home state of Massachusetts. We thank Steve for his many years of service and wish him all the best in retirement."
Just 11 weeks ago, Bryant said at a congressional hearing in Lawrence that he was the best person to lead Columbia Gas of Massachusetts through the Merrimack recovery effort.
"Do you plan to resign?" Rep. Seth Moulton asked Bryant in late November, after the company had missed its original target to restore full service to the valley.
"At this point, Congressman, I do not," Bryant replied. "My job, my focus, my effort every day is the restoration of service to our customers. (...) I think I am the best qualified person to do that."
"Well, Mr. Bryant, I beg to differ," Moulton said, adding, "I suggest you resign."
Columbia Gas of Massachusetts Chief Operating Officer Mark Kempic will succeed Bryant as president on May 1.
Kempic "will continue to focus on working with our customers, state and local leaders, and community stakeholders as he leads our gas business in Massachusetts," Vegas said in a statement. "This includes the next phase of the recovery effort in the Greater Lawrence area and continuing to meet our customer and community needs across the state."
Bryant's retirement comes close on the heels of two other industry shakeups. Department of Public Utilities Chair Angela O'Connor recently stepped down after a four-year term, and the state's director of pipeline safety, Richard Wallace, said he will retire.
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