For Immediate Release - December 30, 2010

AG Coakley Calls for Investigation of National Grid's Response to December 26 Storm

BOSTON - Today, Attorney General Martha Coakley's Office requested that the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) open an investigation into National Grid's response to the December 26, 2010 storm that left approximately 20,000 South Shore customers without power for days. State law requires the DPU to open a full investigation into a utility's performance regarding emergency preparation or restoration of service upon receiving a petition by the Attorney General. This law was enacted in 2009 as a result of Unitil's poor response to the winter ice storm of 2008.

"Ensuring that consumers have reliable service is especially important during the winter season in order for consumers to run their furnaces or operate electric heat," AG Coakley said. "Restoring service for residential customers in a reasonable and timely manner should be the top priority, and any lengthy outage in the winter poses a severe threat to public safety."

The Attorney General's petition cites National Grid's apparent failure to fully implement the Emergency Response Plan it filed with the DPU. National Grid's Emergency Response Plan requires the company to activate local Emergency Operations Centers prior to a storm, which are staging areas to conduct restoration of service, and to communicate with municipal officials, public safety providers and customers during a storm event. The petition alleges that National Grid failed to activate these staging areas to adequately deploy repair crews or coordinate with local officials in response to a severe winter storm that had been forecasted days in advance. This failure led to insufficient communication with local officials and resulted in municipal public safety resources being diverted to secure live downed wires, and imposing unreasonable costs on municipalities and preventing them from responding to other emergencies. This and other failures resulted in undue stress on public safety responders in communities affected by the storm.

View PDF of the petition filed with the DPU:

If the DPU finds that National Grid has violated any of its standards for restoration of service, the DPU may levy penalties of up to $250,000 per violation, up to a total of $20 million for any related series of violations.

Massachusetts Electric Company and Nantucket Electric Company, each doing business as National Grid, serve 1.2 million customers throughout Massachusetts, including the South Shore, where the majority of the outages occurred.

The Attorney General's Office of Ratepayer Advocacy is the Commonwealth's ratepayer advocate and is authorized to intervene in administrative or judicial proceedings on behalf of consumers in connection with any matter involving the rates, charges, prices or tariffs of any electric company doing business in the Commonwealth.