Head Of Mass. Pipeline Safety Division Stepping Down
The state's director of pipeline safety is stepping down, nearly five months after gas explosions and fires in the Merrimack Valley.
Richard Wallace's job was posted Friday. He was appointed acting director in 2015, payroll records show. A DPU spokesperson said Wallace is retiring after 30 years with the department, and will stay on until a director is hired.
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Wallace's departure comes days after the chairman of the Department of Public Utilities, Angela O'Connor, stepped down after a four-year term. She will be replaced by Matthew Nelson, who worked most recently for DPU as the director of electric power and regional and federal affairs. Before that, he worked for the utility company Eversource.
Wallace leaves as the National Transportation Safety Board continues its investigation into the gas pipeline explosions in Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. The NTSB's initial investigation found the severe overpressurization happened during a pipe replacement project by Columbia Gas.
WBUR reported last week that two years before the explosions, pressure in Columbia Gas' pipes rose dangerously high for 27 minutes in Taunton. That violation led to a $75,000 fine issued two months after the explosions.
The utility reported five separate incidents over a six-year period — from 2011 to 2016 — when pipeline pressure climbed beyond what’s considered safe. Any pressure that reaches over 10 percent of what the pipe is designed to handle is a violation of federal regulations.