BOSTON – Attorney General Martha Coakley’s office said last week that it is seeking a $16 million fine against National Grid for its failure to “adequately prepare, respond and communicate” during Tropical Storm Irene and an October 2011 snowstorm. The penalty is the largest ever recommended against a utility in Massachusetts.
Coakley’s office made the recommendation in a brief filed with the Mass. Department of Public Utilities, which has the authority to impose the fine. According to the AG’s brief, National Grid officials violated four separate storm-response obligations under the company’s emergency-response plan including:
• Failing to communicate effectively with customers and municipalities throughout the two major storms.
• Failing to provide timely damage assessments.
• Failing to properly staff for the two emergency events.
• Failing to respond to public safety calls about downed wires.
If granted, the penalties cannot be passed on to National Grid customers and must be borne by shareholders. Under current law, the penalties would be paid to the state’s general fund. The attorney general has announced support for pending legislation to the Joint Committee on Telecommunication that would ensure that penalties ordered by DPU would be returned to customers, not the general fund. •