U.S. Attorney Andrew Lelling on Wednesday plans to announce federal charges against Columbia Gas of Massachusetts in connection with the September 2018 explosions in the Merrimack Valley, and Lelling's office said the utility has agreed to plead guilty to violating the Pipeline Safety Act.

Lelling will disclose additional details at a 10:30 a.m. press conference, with representatives of the U.S. Department of Transportation and the FBI.

Under the agreement, Columbia Gas is to sell off its gas distribution business and pay a fine of just more than $53 million -- twice the amount of money the company gained through the state Gas Safety Enhancement Plan program from 2015 through 2018, according to court records.

The company agreed to waive an indictment and plead guilty to the charges that it knowingly and willfully failed to "prepare and follow a procedure for the starting up and shutting down of a pipeline designed to assure operation within the maximum allowable operating pressure."

The agreement also states that "the U.S. Attorney does not intend to criminally prosecute any individual for violations of the Natural Gas Pipeline Safety Act ... for the conduct related to the allegations ... the Event, or Defendant's and NiSource's restoration work in the Merrimack Valley."

"We take full responsibility for the tragic events of September 13, 2018 that so impacted our customers throughout the Merrimack Valley. Today’s resolution with the U.S. Attorney’s Office is an important part of addressing the impact," a Columbia Gas of Massachusetts spokesman said in a statement. "Our focus remains on enhancing safety, regaining the trust of our customers and ensuring that quality service is delivered."

Lelling's office announced the expected plea in a tweet. The Boston FBI posted on Twitter that Columbia Gas will be "held criminally & financially accountable for the Merrimack Valley explosions & fires on 9/13/18."

One person -- Lawrence teenager Leonel Rondon -- was killed in the series of natural gas explosions that rocked Lawrence, Andover and North Andover. Thousands of others were displaced and homes and businesses were damaged throughout the area, resulting in a lengthy and expensive recovery process for the region and pushes to tighten state gas safety laws.