90K Without Power In Mass., Coakley Questions Utilities

BOSTON (CBS) – About 90,000 homes and businesses were still without power in Massachusetts Wednesday, three days after Tropical Storm Irene.

National Grid reports late Wednesday evening that more than 68,000 of its nearly 1.3 million customers don’t have electricity. NStar says 22,000 of its customers still have no power. At the peak, there were more than half a million outages.

Even though crews are working around the clock, some people may not get their electricity restored until the weekend.

One of the biggest complaints has been a perceived lack of communication. Many people want to know when they’re getting their power back and say they’ve been unable to get an answer.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Laurie Kirby reports from Franklin

After more than three days, the power’s finally back on at the Norwell Council on Aging, so the afternoon cribbage game is a go.

But frustration, like everywhere in town, is high.

One of the council’s visitors, Wesley Osborne, can’t fathom why it has taken so long to bring electricity back.

“The way they run things now, how long would we wait in a real storm?” he asks.  “My question is, if we had a real hurricane, would we have to wait even weeks for power?”

Norwell is one of the towns hardest hit in terms of power loss and yet no one can point to why that’s the case.  According to the fire chief here, National Grid doesn’t exactly seem to be in a hurry to give officials any answers.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong reports from Norwell

“To have a plan in place that involves one component that refuses to play well with others is very difficult,” says Chief Andrew Reardon.   “National Grid made us some promises that they did not follow up on and I’m very frustrated with that.  Again, 96% of my community this morning was without power.”

While residents are annoyed, there is also an ongoing economic cost to measure.  Joseph’s Garage in Norwell Center is essentially out of business all week.

“I don’t see this problem being solved in the next 2 or 3 days,” says employee Gordon Crosier.  Getting power back, he notes, “seems to be taking a long time.”

Next door, Mary Campanelli had to throw out thousands of dollars worth of meats and cheese from her specialty foods store after she lost power and refrigeration.  Coming right before what should have been a very busy Labor Day weekend, Irene’s aftermath is a pricey one.

“I truly don’t want to go through something like this again,” she says.

Whether or not she, and everyone else here, will go through this again is largely up to National Grid.  But town leaders are not holding out much hope.

“For us to have a partner in the utilities that is not going to step up the way they said they were going to step up is detrimental,” said Chief Reardon.

In Bridgewater, Town Manager Troy Clarkson was among those public officials who tried to help the communication process. They knocked on doors on Tuesday to pass along information and get some feedback from residents who lost power.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Bernice Corpuz reports from Bridgewater

Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley is launching a fact-finding investigation into how utilities responded to the outages.

WBZ-TV’s Beth Germano reports

The office has fielded hundreds of complaints from customers upset about the slow pace of the recovery and what they describe as a lack of communication about when the power would be restored.

“The questions we’re asking the utilities right now are ‘what was your plan, how were you able to execute it, and what provisions did you make for communication’,” said Coakley.

The Attorney General wants to look at pre-event planning reports, correspondence, contact with state and local officials, and the sequence and numbers of repair crews and response times.

The utilities have thirty days to respond, but will be afforded more time if requested due to the storm.

Coakley says she’ll hold the line until she knows “what was reasonable and what may have been something they could have anticipated.”

But she wants to be able to report to the Department of Public Utilities and the public “what was done right and needs to be improved next time around.”

Last month the office announced a preliminary settlement with National Grid following its response to last December’s winter storm that also created severe power outages.

The Department of Public Utilities still has to approve the plan that would require National Grid pay $1.2 million dollars in addition to another one million dollars for training, charitable contributions and service improvements.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Karen Twomey reports from Foxboro

As for New Hampshire, Public Service of New Hampshire says all 125,000 people who lost power in the storm were expected to have it back on by midnight — with the exception of about 680 customers in the Town of Wakefield.

WBZ-TV’s Jim Armstrong & Beth Germano contributed to this report.


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