For Immediate Release - November 17, 2011

Department of Public Utilities Issues Order to Investigate Utilities’ Preparation for and Response to October Snowstorm

BOSTON – Tuesday, November 8, 2011 – After the third major power outage in less than a year affecting hundreds of thousands of customers, the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) today formally opened an investigation of storm preparation and power restoration efforts by three of the state’s investor-owned electric utilities following the October 29 snowstorm.  

As part of the investigation, DPU will examine how three of the state’s investor-owned electric distribution companies – National Grid, NSTAR, and Western Massachusetts Electric Company (WMECo) – responded to the October 29 storm, focusing on the companies’ efforts to prepare before the storm, restoration of electric power, and their communications with affected communities. DPU will also review whether the companies complied with DPU regulations and fully implemented their Emergency Response Plans, which were last filed in May 2011.

Based on its findings, DPU’s actions could include levying financial penalties and requiring the companies to change their storm policies and procedures going forward. In September 2011, DPU penalized National Grid $1.2 million for its response to a December 2010 snowstorm.

“We will conduct an intensive top-to-bottom review of the response to power outages of this most recent storm to determine whether the companies’ performance was adequate and complied with DPU requirements,” said DPU Chair Ann Berwick.

“This Administration is extremely frustrated by the multiple-day outages communities experienced after these recent storms," said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Richard K. Sullivan Jr. "These are essential utility services that communities can’t do without for extended periods of time.” 

This investigation follows DPU’s ongoing inquiry into National Grid and NSTAR’s handling of power outages related to Tropical Storm Irene and a recent investigation into National Grid’s response to a December 2010 snowstorm. As part of the ongoing Tropical Storm Irene investigation, DPU is conducting hearings to gather public comments on storm preparation and power restoration efforts by National Grid and NSTAR. Due to the extent of the concern expressed by communities and local emergency management officials, DPU will also use its remaining five public meetings to gather public input relating the October snowstorm.

As part of this new investigation, DPU will also schedule public meetings in the hard-hit areas affected by the October snowstorm. Those hearings will be held before the December holidays and the dates and locations will be announced soon. Additionally, DPU requires all four of the utilities (National Grid, NSTAR, WMECo and Unitil) to submit a 30-day post-storm report.   

According to the order, DPU’s investigation will focus on compliance with DPU performance standards for emergency preparedness and restoration of service, including: (1) preparation for and management of the restoration efforts with respect to Tropical Storm Irene; (2) allocation of company resources in the affected communities; (3) communications with state, local municipal and public safety officials, and with the department; (4) dissemination of timely information to the public; and (5) identification of company practices requiring improvement. 

For more information on DPU’s authority under the General Laws, visit

http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2009/Chapter133.

                      

UPCOMING TROPICAL STORM IRENE RESPONSE MEETINGS

(The public may attend these meetings to also submit public comment on utility storm response to the October 29 snowstorm. The DPU will be rescheduling one additional Irene meeting that was postponed last week.)

 

                        National Grid

                        Tuesday, Nov. 8, 7 p.m.
                        Massasoit Community College, Conference Center, Route 27, Crescent St., Brockton

 

                        Tuesday, Nov. 29, 7 p.m.
                        Trottier Middle School, 49 Parkerville Road, Southborough 
                        (rescheduled from the postponed Nov. 1 meeting)

                       

                        NSTAR
                        
Thursday, Nov. 10, 7 p.m.
                        Barnstable High School, Performing Arts Center, Barnstable

                       

                        Monday, Nov. 14, 7 p.m.
                        Keith Middle School, 225 Hathaway Blvd., New Bedford

                       

                        Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m.
                        Walsh Middle School, 301 Brook Street, Auditorium, Framingham