National Grid Faces Unprecedented Fines for "Inadequate Storm Response"
The state's Attorney General, Martha Coakley, seeks more than $16 million in penalties for National Grid's "inadequate storm response during Tropical Storm Irene and the October 2011 Snowstorm.
As we near the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Irene, which left thousands of Stoughton residents (and nearly a million total Massachusetts residents) without power for days, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is proving that she hasn't forgotten what she calls an "inadequate response" to both the tropical storm and an October snowstorm with similar results.
Coakely is recommending a $16 million fine against the company – the largest penalty ever recommended against a utility in Massachusetts, according to a statement from her office released Thursday.
The penalties, if passed, would not affect National Grid customers and would have to be borne on shareholders.
Stoughton dealt with only scattered outages in the October snowstorm, but National Grid's response to the outages caused by Irene in Stoughton lagged behind that of other towns in the area. Many in Stoughton were without power for the better part of a week after Irene.
The AG’s Office made the recommendation in a brief filed Wednesday with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU), which has the authority to impose the fine. According to the AG’s brief, National Grid officials violated four separate storm response obligations under the company’s emergency response plan (ERP) including:
- Failing to communicate effectively with customers and municipalities throughout the two major storms;
- Failing to provide timely damage assessments;
- Failing to properly staff for the two emergency events; and
- Failing to respond to public safety calls about downed wires.
“Combined, these two storms left nearly a million National Grid customers without power, some for more than a week,” Coakley said in a statement.
“National Grid’s preparation for these storms was inadequate and its response was unacceptable," she continued. "The company compounded these mistakes with a lack of communication to municipalities and first responders about restoration efforts, leaving many of them in the dark as they were making critical decisions around public safety and emergency treatment.”