Mass. DPU Launches Probe Into October Snowstorm

BOSTON (CBS/AP) — The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities has formally launched an investigation into the response to the late October snowstorm by three of the state’s public utilities.

The Oct. 29 storm dumped heavy wet snow across the state, bringing down tree limbs and wires, plunging hundreds of thousands of residents into the dark. The utilities struggled over the past week to restore electricity.

As part of the probe, state investigators will examine how National Grid, NSTAR, and Western Massachusetts Electric Company prepared before the storm, how quickly they were able to restore electricity, and how they communicated with local officials.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager reports

“I’m very proud of the work they did,” National Grid President Marcy Reed told officials from the Department of Public Utilities about her crews.

She and others spoke at a public hearing in Brockton.

State lawmakers took her to task. “Please please please,” begged State Senator Thomas Kennedy. He’s especially angry over news from North Brookfield. According to the District Attorney, the 86-year-old woman found unconscious in her home without electricity, died of hypothermia.

“Six days without power. For the disabled, it’s critical,” said Kennedy, who’s confined to a wheelchair himself. “I know myself, if I didn’t have power in my house, I would really be in a jam. I live at home with my 101-year-old mother.”

Reed said part of the problem was that the mutual aid crews National Grid uses were too busy working in other states to travel to Massachusetts right away. State lawmakers say there should be enough local crews to respond to extreme weather in New England.

The DPU could end up levying fines and requiring the companies to change their storm policies.

In September 2011, the agency penalized National Grid $1.2 million for its response to a December 2010 snowstorm.

WBZ-TV’s Christina Hager contributed to this report

(TM and © Copyright 2011 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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