Led by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), members of the House Republican caucus have submitted a letter to Ann Berwick, Chair of the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU), as part of their ongoing effort to hold public utility companies accountable for their response to the October 2011 snowstorm.
The letter, which was submitted during the public comment phase of the DPU’s investigation into the utility companies’ storm response protocol, emphasizes that the “extended power outages not only created a significant risk to public safety but also inflicted substantial financial loss on residents and businesses in the Commonwealth.” The letter goes on to say, “While we recognize that both Tropical Storm Irene and the October snowstorm caused significant damage to utilities’ infrastructure within the short period of two months, in some circumstances, we believe the damage could have been prevented by adequate routine maintenance and mitigated by ample storm preparedness.”
With over 800,000 residents left without power for varying periods of time, the letter calls into question three areas of concern: preventative arbor maintenance by public utility companies; marginal preparedness for catastrophic events with a high regional impact; and the utility companies' struggle to relay information in a time sensitive manner.
“Public utility companies should be held accountable for reliable electric service and timely customer support,” said Representative Jones. “Although the magnitude and scope of Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor’easter were larger than usual, the disorganization that followed these storms was unacceptable and we must take the necessary steps to ensure that this cannot and will not happen again.”
The Republican caucus proposes requiring utility companies to invest not only in technology better suited to taking precise readings of system-wide damage, but also broadening forms of communication between customers and service providers.
Having completed the public comment phase of their investigation, the DPU will deliberate as to whether or not the utility companies complied with DPU regulations and fully implemented their Emergency Response Plans.