Bryan Cohen Jan. 2, 2013, 9:00pm

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a statement Monday regarding the decision by several utility companies to appeal fines levied against them for their failed responses to two weather-related events.

On Dec. 11, the Department of Public Utilities issued more than $24 million in fines against NSTAR, the Western Massachusetts Electric Company and National Grid. The fines were issued for the companies' failed responses to Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 snowstorm. The three utility companies appealed the fines.

"The inadequate planning and response by the utility companies left thousands of Massachusetts customers without power for far too long, and the record fines are certainly justified to hold them accountable for those failings," Coakley said. "Our office intends to defend these fines in court."

Coakley's office looked into Tropical Storm Irene and October 2011 snowstorm responses by National Grid and NSTAR. Her office alleged that the two utilities failed to adequately prepare, respond and communicate during the two storms. Her office found similar issues in WMECO's response to the October 2011 snowstorm. Coakley recommended that the DPU assess $16 million in fines against National Grid, $10 million against NSTAR and $4 million against WMECO.

Since July, Coakley's office has reviewed the standards used to measure overall service quality of utility companies. Her office filed the report with the DPU on December 13.

In November, Coakley requested that all DPU fines related to the 2011 weather events be returned directly to customers. Returning the fines to customers would comply with a new 2012 law that went into effect in August prior to the DPU's final decision on the penalties. The DPU ultimately ordered that the fines should be returned to customers.

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