Coakley, power provider renegotiate settlement

Bryan Cohen Jul. 20, 2011, 1:59pm


BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley announced on Tuesday that National Grid will pay $1.2 million to customers as part of an updated settlement.

The settlement is connected to the company's response to a Dec. 26 winter storm that left 113,000 without power.

This amount will be paid in addition to the $1 million in charitable contributions, trainings and service improvements that were negotiated in a preliminary settlement in June. Response to the storm allegedly created hardships for customers and dangerous conditions for area public safety personnel.

National Grid allegedly misclassified the intensity of the storm, delaying response to what became a very significant storm. As a result, this cause difficulty in National Grid's communication of estimated times of arrival to municipal officials and prevented the company from deploying enough wires down staff in a timely manner.

The company was then overwhelmed by the hundreds of downed wires, leading municipalities to place police and fire details at downed wires for extended periods of time for public safety, Coakley says.

The updated settlement, now a total of more than $2.2 million, was filed Tuesday with the Department of Public Utilities.

"The addition of this amount with a credit to customers greatly enhances our proposed resolution of this matter," Coakley said. "We are providing a benefit to National Grid's customers while also implementing improvements to the company's communications, operations and training designed to prevent a recurrence of the factors that contributed to the company's performance in responding to the December 26 storm."

On June 7, the parties submitted a proposed settlement agreement requiring National Grid to fund training for police and firefighters in the affected communities, make significant improvements to communications and other community storm response mechanisms, fund a study as a state university to develop a formal model to correlate weather data with electric system outages in order to improve its emergency response planning, make payments of $50,000 each to the Red Cross and the United Way, provide equipment and $150,000 over three years to the state Fire Marshall to ensure public safety responders impacted by the company's response have the necessary resources to address downed wires and electric outages, perform public outreach and education regarding downed wires, train additional employees to be responsible for downed wires and ensure that municipalities receive full reimbursements for related costs.

As part of the settlement, none of the costs to National Grid would be passed on to customers. Coakley's office and National Grid negotiated an additional $1.2 million voluntary payment after concerns were raised by the DPU. The DPU has until October 1 to approve the revised settlement agreement.

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