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Mass. AG discusses issuance of $24M in utility storm fines

By Bryan Cohen | Dec 12, 2012

BOSTON (Legal Newsline) - Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley issued a statement regarding the Department of Public Utilities' decision to issue $24 million in fines against utility companies for their failed storm responses.

The $24 million in fines against Western Massachusetts Electric Company, NSTAR and National Grid represented a record number. Coakley previously alleged that the three major utilities failed to adequately prepare, respond and communicate during the October 2011 snowstorm and Tropical Storm Irene.

"Today's record fines issued by the DPU send a clear signal that utilities will be held accountable for their failures in preparing for and responding to major storms," Coakley said Tuesday. "Our investigation found that the utilities' preparation for these storms was woefully inadequate and their slow responses to downed wires created dangerous public safety situations across the commonwealth. We recommended record penalties against the utilities, and the fines issued today send a clear message that customers deserve better in future storms. We are also pleased that the DPU accepted our recommendation and has ordered that the fines be returned back to the ratepayers."

In July, Coakley's office recommended that the DPU fine National Grid $16 million for the alleged violations, NSTAR close to $10 million for inadequate responses to both storms and WMECO approximately $4 million in fines for its response to the snowstorm.

Coakley also announced in July that her office was launching a review to measure the overall service quality of utility companies, including alternative ways to measure the quality of service delivered to customers.

"While today's action holds utilities accountable for prior storms, we are also pleased that the DPU has agreed with our recommendation to review the service quality standards utilities are held to moving forward," Coakley said. "We will file our recommendations very soon in an effort to make sure people receive the service they are paying for."

On Tuesday, Coakley's office announced that the review process is nearly complete.

In November, Coakley requested that all DPU fines be returned directly to consumers as a matter of fairness for ratepayers.

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