Improved Storm Response Law
BOSTON – On August 6th, Governor Deval Patrick signed a bill to improve emergency response services of Massachusetts public utility companies. Widespread power outages across the state last year during Tropical Storm Irene in August and an October snowstorm exposed areas of concern and prompted the legislative action.The law requires public utility companies to provide three-times-daily estimates to customers about when electricity will be restored following a 24-hour damage assessment period. It also requires companies during major storms to set up a call center which must be located in Massachusetts within 50 miles of a utility’s service territory and have sufficient staffing to handle calls.
Utilities must also report storm outages to the state and designate a community liaison in each community when implementing an emergency response plan. To enhance that effort, utilities are required to designate staff at the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency to help coordinate statewide response.
Furthermore, utilities will pay an assessment charge to help the Department of Public Utilities pay for storm investigations. The cost of this assessment cannot be passed onto customers, nor can any costs of penalties assessed on utilities for violating emergency preparation and response requirements.