For Immediate Release - November 04, 2011

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

Agency action follows the Patrick-Murray Administration’s inquiry request

BOSTON – Friday, November 4, 2011 – In response to today’s request by Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary (EEA) Richard K. Sullivan Jr., the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) today announced it will conduct a review of the preparation for and response to the October 29 snowstorm by the state’s investor-owned utilities.

“As a regulatory agency, it’s our job to oversee the emergency preparations and responses of utilities.  We believe Secretary Sullivan has raised some important questions in requesting this review and we encourage the public to share their feedback with us,” said DPU Chair Berwick.

This review, which will be launched following adoption of a formal order by the DPU, comes on the heels of the DPU’s ongoing inquiry into National Grid and NSTAR Electric Company’s handling of power outages related to Tropical Storm Irene.  In addition, as a matter of course, the DPU requires all four of the utilities (National Grid, NSTAR, Massachusetts Electric Company and Unitil) to submit 30-day post-storm reports. Those reports, which have already been filed by the companies in relation to Tropical Storm Irene, require the utilities to include a section on lessons learned and specifically suggest recommendations that will help them improve performance for the upcoming winter storm season.  

In response to customer and municipal concerns, DPU will examine how the state’s investor-owned electric distribution companies responded to the October 29, 2011 snowstorm, focusing on the companies’ efforts to prepare before the storm, to restore electric power, as well as their communications with affected communities. The 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.

“I’m pleased the DPU is acting quickly to get an investigation underway,” Secretary Sullivan said. “Throughout the week, I and members of my energy team have met with public officials in hard-hit cities and towns around Massachusetts.  I will continue to monitor the ongoing restoration efforts and look forward to hearing more from communities and the public through this process.”  

The DPU’s inquiry will focus on compliance with DPU’s performance standards for emergency preparedness and restoration of service, including: (1) preparation for and management of the restoration efforts; (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, if any.  

Based on its findings, the DPU’s actions following the investigation could include levying financial penalties and/or requiring the companies to change their storm policy procedures going forward.

For more information on DPU’s authority under the General Laws, visit http://www.malegislature.gov/Laws/SessionLaws/Acts/2009/Chapter133.