Western MA Utility Customers to See Reimbursements for Post-Irene, Nor'easter Power Outages
The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities today issued fines to three utilities serving western Massachusetts for their inadequate responses following Hurricane Irene and the October nor'easter. The three companies will pay customers a combined 24.8 million dollars.
National Grid was handed the steepest penalty -- 18.7 million dollars. The DPU called the company's response to the storms a quote "systematic failure." NSTAR will pay 4 million and WMECO owes 2 million. But the DPU penalized all three electric companies for leaving downed wires for days in a row. Secretary of Energy and Environmental Affairs Rick Sullivan says during a storm, loose wires with current running through them pose the greatest threat to public safety. Sullivan says it's up to the companies to determine how they'll reimburse customers.
"It could run the gammet, it could be a check, it could be a credit on the bill. You know, we will see what the companies come up with in terms of a method to get that back to the rate payer. And I think the decision here shows that there's a very high expectation that these companies need to meet, or there are gonna be consequences."
And Sullivan adds, the DPU will make sure the penalties aren't transferred to customers through electricity rate hikes.
National Grid Spokeswoman Debbie Drew says the utility has been improving its storm response procedures over the past year. But she says the company isn't sure how it will go about paying its 18.7 million dollar fine.
"We've not yet had an opportunity to fully review and evaluate the department's order. We'll need some time to evaluate the order fully to consider our options going forward."
The utility companies have thirty days to file payment plans with the DPU outlining a process for crediting customers.