BOSTON, Mass. (WWLP) — Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is recommending a $16 million dollar fine for National Grid, about a third of the companyâ€™s profits in the past year, for what she calls its inadequate response to two of last yearâ€™s storms that each left about one million people without power.
â€śThis is the largest penalty we have ever sought in Massachusetts and we believe itâ€™s for a good reason,â€ť said Coakley at a news conference Thursday.
Coakley said National Gridâ€™s response to last yearâ€™s Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm left thousands of western Massachusetts homes without electricity for up to 9 days and could have been better handled.
â€śWe believe that the performance of Grid during these two events left thousands of people in Massachusetts in the dark literally and figuratively for far too long,â€ť said Coakley.
In response, a National Grid spokesperson Deborah Drew has issued a statement: â€śWhile 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. We will address those issues in our August 1 response to the [Department of Public Utilities].â€ť
Coakley says National Grid failed to effectively communicate with customers, cities and towns, failed to provide timely damage assessments, failed to respond to calls about downed wires and failed to have enough staff in place. The attorney general lent support to a bill that Pittsfield state Senator Benjamin Downing is completing that makes sure utility company penalties are paid back to customers.
â€śItâ€™s ratepayers who have gone without power. They should be able to benefit from the fines that are levied against the utilities if theyâ€™re found to not have been in compliance with their service quality standards,â€ť said Downing.
Attorney General Coakley says the cost of these penalties cannot be passed on the National Grid customers. The money must come out of shareholder profits.
It is ultimately up to the DPU to levy the fines.
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