EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

December 11, 2012

Utilities hit with $25M in penalties


Gov. Deval Patrick applauded the decision.

“Regulated utilities must be accountable to the residents they serve,” he said. “After conducting a thorough investigation, the Department of Public Utilities has done just that. I trust this will encourage the utilities to refocus their efforts on preparation for and response to weather events in the future.”

During Superstorm Sandy, response from utilities was considerably better than during the 2011 storms, according to a spokeswoman for the Sullivan’s office.

During both Irene and the nor’easter, homeowners and businesses were left powerless for days. During the Halloween storm, the Merrimack Valley was among the hardest hit areas of the state, with huge trees down across utility wires, blocking streets and driveways, for days before utility crews ever showed up.

Following both storms, the DPU vowed a full and comprehensive review of the utilities’ response tot he storm.

DPU officials concluded that “all of the utilities failed in their public safety obligation when it came to responding to local public safety officials regarding downed wires.”

The DPU found “systematic failures” in National Grid’s preparations for the storms and the company’s response to the storms and ordered a third party audit of National Grid’s capacity to respond to emergencies.

In the case of National Grid, the DPU found systematic failures in the company’s preparation for and response to both storms and ordered that National Grid undergo a comprehensive, third-party management audit of its capacity for responding to emergency events.

Like the other companies, National Grid failed to effectively coordinate with the towns affected by the storms. Additionally, it left local public safety officials standing by downed wires for as long as several days, had a seriously inadequate response for priority facilities like nursing homes and sewage treatment plants, and secured too few crews, too late. The DPU also observed that it had warned and penalized National Grid for similar behaviors in the December 2010 snowstorm.

Department of Public Utilities Imposes $24.8 Million in Penalties for Utilities' 2011 Storm Responses National Grid to pay $18.7 million NSTAR to pay $4 million WMECo to pay $2 million

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