(Adds settlement details, explosion and federal probe
background, Con Edison and Governor Cuomo comments, byline)
By Jonathan Stempel
NEW YORK Feb 16 Consolidated Edison Inc
has reached a $153.3 million settlement with New York State
stemming from a 2014 natural gas explosion in the East Harlem
section of Manhattan that killed eight people.
The accord was announced on Thursday by New York Governor
Andrew Cuomo, who called it the largest gas safety-related
settlement in the state's history.
It followed a June 2015 report in which the National
Transportation Safety Board said the explosion was likely caused
by a faulty connection between two Con Edison gas pipes, as well
as a hole in a nearby sewer line that New York City had known
about for at least eight years.
The March 12, 2014 blast and resulting fire destroyed two
five-story buildings on Park Avenue, between East 116th Street
and East 117th Street, across from the elevated Metro-North
More than 50 people suffered injuries from the blast, which
also displaced more than 100 families and several businesses.
The NTSB said the failure of residents to report a gas odor
they noticed, and Con Ed's failure to notify the Fire Department
faster once it learned of a problem, were also factors in what
Con Edison did not admit to violating any law, or that its
activities caused or contributed to the explosion, according to
the settlement agreement.
"The East Harlem tragedy and ensuing investigations by Con
Edison and other agencies have led to significant safety
improvements and heightened public awareness," the company said
in a statement. "Today's agreement will enhance those efforts."
The settlement includes a $25.1 million fund to benefit gas
customers, and covers costs to fix gas pipes, improve responses
to leaks, compensate residents and businesses injured by the
explosion, and improve education.
Con Edison agreed not to seek reimbursement from customers
for $125.5 million it has spent on gas leak response activities.
Thursday's settlement does not resolve individual civil
claims against Con Edison related to the explosion.
"The East Harlem explosion was devastating and entirely
avoidable," Cuomo said in a statement. "This landmark action is
a pointed reminder to the energy companies of their awesome
responsibility to maintain safety first and foremost."
Con Edison's settlement was approved by the state's Public
(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by G Crosse
and Alan Crosby)