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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.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.)

More from Christina Hager
  • gramps

    The Utilites would ‘LOVE’ to be fined, piece of cake for them….&… move on.

    Having ‘Brer Fox'(the DPU) investigate, is like the ‘Fox guarding the ‘hen house’!

    “Whatever you do,” cried Brer Rabbit (the Utilities), “Don’t throw me into the briar patch(aka, fine me, please!)”,

    Here’ the ‘Cause & ‘FIX’!!!

    Ever notice those ‘double poles & the partial poles suspended in the air?…..Our ‘Pol’s in concert with the DPU have been looking the ‘other way’ for decades as far as enforcing pole removal regulations!

    There was a time, not so long ago, that when a pole needed replacement…..It was replaced, completely! ….The utilities had a work force large enough for it’s work load….So, when a storm hit these crews were put on restoring service to the ‘customer’…
    The ‘utilities’ slowly started to reduce their work force by cutting the # of ‘recon crews’, which intern, improved their ‘bottom line’……


    Making the utilities do the ‘whole job’ by completely removing old infrastructure will bring their workforce back up to ‘snuff’ so we won’t need to depend on Alabama, West Virginia et al for service!…..Rate Payers are not just paying for the out of state crews to restore their service but also their hotel/motel rooms plus 3 squares a day!….Just so these “Utilities can increase the return to stockholders/Investors”.

    If ‘Deval’ wants answers, he only has to look in the mirror blame himself, the ‘POL’s & DPU’s of yesteryear.

    Don’t let them ‘cut & kick’ a pole for more than 45 days!


    Read pages 62&63…..2010 rate case presentation to DPU, talks about their ageing workforce & Replinishment/Staffing…$File/Volume%204%20-%20Testimony%20of%20Jeffrey%20L.%20Michelson.pdf

  • H.Wilson

    Maybe we should stop this “investigation”garbage after every storm and take a good look at where and what out “public servants” do beside hide for a week after every storm. Don’t any of these pampered idiots know how to run a chain saw ??

    • tsal

      H.Wilson – I’d say the pampered are the ones who cannot handle being without power for a few days.

  • Moe

    Every time we have something like this there is always an investigation and nothing happens. Accept it and move on.

    P.S. Headline to this story is written very poorly.

  • coach23

    “Mass. DPU Launches Probe Into October Snowstorm” – The writer of this line needs to take a writing class.

  • tsal

    I have the answer – we cancel all storms — especially those that are out of the ordinary for New England as of course all of these they are investigating are. Does anyone have a connection with Mother Nature? I happen to enjoy what she throws at us so it probably should be someone else who puts in the request or I’ll just request more of the same.

  • emom

    Its funny , I heard that the utility company that spoke the other day stated they were SHORT STAFFED,, AHHHH no kidding, they lay off many a few years ago , because it was not cost efficient and the higher ups took a huge bonus as well,, What does that tell you ,, GREED,, and for what , It hurt so many and will hurt us all in the end. Just wait the utility companies will recommend to the state that they want to raise the rates and they will raise those rates once again. And they will state it was due to operating costs, cost of fuel and something about foreign costs, really,,, they should investigate these companies there has been an issue with them for far to long, Raising the rates multiple times over the last 5 years should be a cause for concern . Then later in the season like the Summer they lowered the cost stating it was like getting a rebate, really we don’t use much in the summer,, no need for heat and the days are longer, so its like a slap in the face ,
    Again just wait rates will go up and it will come down to this storm ,, the last storm caused our rates to soar so shall this one,

    • tsal

      emom – how are they different from any other big company who has overpaid CEOs and has had to lay off the worker bee to keep costs down? You’ve described one of the main reasons the entire country is in a mess. I’d say increase the minimum pay and set a limit on maximum pay.

      • gramps

        You state: “how are they different from any other big company who has overpaid CEOs and has had to lay off the worker bee to keep costs down?

        Because when power companies lay off, or eliminate through attrition, serviceproviding jobs, “People Die”!

        You’re all wet, but your laundry must be dry by now….


        Let me say that again!

      • tsal1

        and when people can’t afford to live because their income is drying up while the wealth is seeing historic gains – they die. There are alternatives when you lose power -there are not alternatives when you have no income.

        Do you feel your comments carry more weight when they are littered with insults?

      • gramps

        Oh please!

        Go fact check something, for a change……&……Why not produce some original thoughts, rather than just buying into other’s by saying, I agree, or that’s just what I was thinking/saying/doing…..

        You’re the one that told the world about your laundry this am & your probably imaginary clothes line…..

        If I was going to ‘insult’ you, your ‘key board’ would have such a ‘wedgie’!


      • tsal

        Fact – top 1-10% income increase over 275% since 1979. Fact, middle class increase 40% since 1979. Fact low income increase 18% since 1979. Only a fool would look at those figures and not understand something is very wrong. Oh wait………………….I forgot I am speaking to the person who produces original thoughts – yet has posted the same exact comment on every blog about the loss of power.

        I forget you are under the impression that vulgarity and petty insults are the way to get a point across and have no idea why I addressed you to begin with. Yes, I know, when it comes to me you feel silence is golden. I’ll make you happy and go back to ignoring you as I do with anyone who has nothing to say.

        See you in church…………………..

  • gramps

    You state: “how are they different from any other big company who has overpaid CEOs and has had to lay off the worker bee to keep costs down?

    Because when power companies lay off, or eliminate through attrition, serviceproviding jobs, “People Die”!

    You’re all wet, but your laundry must be dry by now….


  • emom

    That’s the problem raising minimum pay ,its high already. Does anyone remember the few times a utility company went on strike, causing so much problems with their customers, did they care, not at all.They mostly wanted was for someone to pay for their benefits, and to get an even higher level of pay. So if this sounds selfish oh well. But in the world of unionized workers, its becoming all about what some can get out of their customers, and sadly we are over that barrel since many do not have a choice in who they can pick and choice.
    So many will resort to cutting cost on their own home to supplement these ever rising bills, Installing a wood stove, pellet stove, sacrificing luxury spending, and the list goes on . Why should a home owner have to sacrifice anything , why do we have to pay such high rates which we all know goes to the salaries of all at the companies.
    To be honest I saw recently were 3 utility trucks from one company were at a site, Now mind you I saw them at around noon time. I went by that area again about 2 hours later they were still there just looking and again passed by and it was now 4 pm and they well didn’t seem to be doing anything, no new pole , no spools of line, nothing, so what could they have been doing just looking up at the poles, sorry it seems a waste to me.
    In light of what this storm had done and since we have gone thru this once before I would think they would have been proactive in correcting the problem from the last time, They after all had a few years to do so. so asking for a pay raise seems like another attempt at nickel and dimeing their customers, holding us hostage and there is nothing we can do about it.

  • Enough

    There is no excuse, if a company has customers it should try to provide the best service. If a car repairman keeps repairing your car incorrectly, and you have to keep going without your car because you have to keep bringing it back, eventually you wonder what you are wasting your money on and take the car somewhere else to hopefully get it fixed right. With electric you don’t really have a choice, you are stuck with them and they know it. They cut staff back to the point where they can’t manage in extreme weather, when part of their service should be to BE prepared for extreme weather in New England! They are not newbies to this industry. Foxboro let them have it last night. Towns with their own electric manage a lot better, because they don’t cover huge areas they aren’t familiar with, and they can better know when issues do happen.

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