Former U.S. Congressman and Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood (pictured) will chair the new Quality Review Board for Merrillville-based NiSource Inc. The board is an independent body formed to provide oversight and governance over the company's implementation of its Safety Management Systems.

NiSource operates utilities across seven states in the U.S., including the Northern Indiana Public Service Corp. The company came under fire last year after gas explosions and subsequent fires killed one person and injured nearly two dozen more in Massachusetts.

Joe Hamrock, chief executive officer of NiSource, says the formation of the Quality Review Board is a "critical step for our organization as we proactively identify and mitigate risk and take tangible safety actions to protect our customers and communities from harm." The company says SMS is a comprehensive approach to managing safety, emphasizing continuous improvement, and identifying and mitigating potential risks.

"Safety must be the top priority of any natural gas company and implementing SMS is the right thing to do," LaHood said in a news release. "I look forward to providing rigorous oversight throughout this process, with a clear objective: promote the safety of the public."

The other members of the Quality Review Board include:

  • John Durham - Retired Director, Enercon Services Inc.
  • Gary Harland - President, Work Management Inc.
  • John Cox - President & CEO, Safety Operating Systems
  • Jeff Wiese - Vice President for Pipeline Integrity, TRC Companies

NiSource says it has also appointed a senior executive to oversee the implementation of SMS, as well as a new state role focused on safety, compliance and risk.