By WBZ-TV Chief Correspondent Joe Shortsleeve

BOSTON (CBS) – Hundreds of thousands of National Grid customers lost power during last year’s storms. Some were in the dark for more than a week. The state’s Attorney General says National Grid dropped the ball.

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Martha Coakley told a room full of reporters Thursday, “This is the largest fine ever imposed on a public utility and we believe it is for good reason.”

When Tropical Storm Irene ripped through New England late last August, tens of thousands of people lost power. But when some of those outages dragged on for three, four, five, six, even seven days, communities became furious with National Grid and NStar claiming the emergency response was totally inadequate.

WBZ NewsRadio 1030’s Ben Parker reports.

Then a freak snow storm hit in October and the same thing happened again. During that storm, people were without power for even longer and the Attorney General began an investigation. The result was the proposed fines of $16 million against National Grid alone.

Coakley says, “The performance of Grid during these two events left thousands of people in Massachusetts in the dark literally and figuratively for far too long.”

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National Grid released this statement:

“We will be filing our formal response on the storm proceeding on August 1 with the Department of Public Utilities, and we will wait to see what they find and recommend. While we acknowledge that our storm restoration efforts did not meet our customers’ expectations, and there is room for improvement, we strongly disagree with the extreme conclusions the Attorney General has drawn. We will address those issues in our August 1 response to the DPU. We will continue to work to provide the level of service our customers expect and deserve.”

During Tropical Storm Irene, the town of Cohasset was hard hit. The fire chief remembers it well.

Chief Robert Silvia says, “Our experience in Cohasset was that the power went down on Saturday. We did not even see crews until Wednesday and all the power was not restored until the following Saturday.”

Again the $16 million fine is against only National Grid.

We are told NStar will face similar fines next week.

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If and when those fines are ever paid, the money goes into the state’s general fund, not back to consumers.