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NEW: Coakley Hits National Grid with Record $16 Million in Fines

Thursday, July 26, 2012

 

Mass Attorney General, Martha Coakley slammed National Grid with a record-setting $16 Million in fines for their response to the October 2011 snowstorm and Hurricane Irene.

Coakley’s office is citing the company for multiple violations including lack of communication with town officials, first responders, and customers as well as unacceptably low staffing levels leading to slow response times.

During a press conference, Coakley said, "We are announcing that we are seeking a penalty just over $16 million for their lack of preparation and lack of response and particularly lack of communication,” she said. “This is the largest penalty we have sought in Massachusetts and we believe it is for good reason – for a couple of good reasons.”

Coakley said that National Grid “left people in the dark literally and figuratively,” citing the company for their inadequate response time.

In response to the fines, National Grid's regional Media Relations Manager, Deborah Drew, said, "We will be filing our formal response on the storm proceeding on August 1st with the Department of Public Utilities, and we will wait to see what they find and recommend. While we acknowledge that our storm restoration efforts did not meet our customers' expectations, and there is room for improvement, we strongly disagree with the extreme conclusions the Attorney General has drawn," she said. "We will address those issues in our August 1st response to the DPU. We will continue to work to provide the level of service our customers expect and deserve."

“The response was also inadequate and also included a consistent lack of communication between towns and officials and particularly to consumers," Coakley said.

Nearly 30,000 Worcester residents lost power during a snowstorm late last October.

According to Coakley, this will be filed with Department of Public Utlities, who will determine the final amount. Their office has been a part of a month long investigation that included public hearings with department.

“Note that these fines cannot be passed along to consumers,” she said.

Earlier this month, the Attorney General’s office also recommended a $4 million fine to Western Mass Electrical. “We anticipate a similar one against NSTAR,” she said, adding that the October storm left about one sixth of Mass residents without power up for up to nine days.

“We believe proper preparation would have included crews ready to go in in the numbers they were needed. National Grid did not employ models that would have allowed them to predict,” she said, calling their methods a "seat of the pants response.”

Coakly said that there were great risks posed to city emergency crews and the elderly.

“What happened in many communities, with downed wires, fire chiefs would dispatch trucks and were never given information about when the power would be off. There was also a lack of information available regarding emergency generators,” she said. 

Both the unexpected October snowstorm and Hurricane Irene left many in the area without power for extended periods of time, something Worcester City Council also confronted the company about in March.

 

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