It’s 4 p.m. on a Thursday in September when a series of explosions rocks three neighboring New England towns. Dozens of house fires break out, thousands of residents are forced to evacuate, twenty-two are injured, and one young man is killed. As news helicopters hover overhead, emergency responders scramble on the ground and thick plumes of smoke cloud the sky. The source: excessive pressure in a subterranean natural gas line, later confirmed by a federal investigation.1

State and local officials try repeatedly, and unsuccessfully, to reach the utility company, Columbia Gas of Massachusetts. Reporters dial a hotline that plays a recorded voice message; the utility company is closed.2 Four long hours ...

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