BOSTON – The Mass. Department of Public Utilities last week ordered a total of $24.8 million in penalties resulting from the state’s electric utilities’ responses to Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm. The penalties will be returned to the utilities’ customers, the DPU said.
National Grid faces the steepest penalty, at $18.725 million; NSTAR has been ordered to pay $4.075 million; Western Massachusetts Electric Co. pay $2 million. In a statement, the department said it recognizes that outages are inevitable in storms of this magnitude. However, the department concluded that the utilities failed in their public-safety obligations, specifically related to downed wires.
In the statement, DPU said it found systematic failures in National Grid’s preparation for and response to both storms and ordered that the company 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. •