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MA Proposes Fining Utility NStar Almost $10M

Thu, 08/09/2012 - 6:38am
the Associated Press

BOSTON (AP) — The Massachusetts attorney general is seeking a nearly $10 million in fines from electric utility NStar for what she calls "inadequate" responses to two major storms last year that left hundreds of thousands of customers without power, some for days.

Attorney General Martha Coakley's office made the recommendation in a brief filed Tuesday with the Department of Public Utilities, which has the authority to impose the fine.

The attorney general says NStar failed to properly anticipate the severity of Tropical Storm Irene in August and a late October snow storm; failed to communicate effectively with customers and government officials; and failed to respond to calls about downed wires.

"NStar's preparation for these storms was woefully inadequate and much of the power loss suffered by hundreds of thousands of customers could have been avoided," Coakley said in a statement.

"These fines are intended to hold NStar accountable for these failings and to send a message that customers deserve better in future storms," she said.

If granted, the fines cannot be passed on to customers, but must be borne by shareholders

NStar disputed Coakley's allegations, and said it was in full compliance with state-approved response plans.

"We disagree with the Attorney General's recommendation given the physical challenges of rebuilding and restoring the electric system following a natural disaster," President Werner Schweiger said in a statement. "The Attorney General is alleging performance violations based on standards that do not exist."

The utility said it was proud of its workers and noted that NStar was one of the first investor-owned utilities to restore power to its customers in both storms and was able to send crews to assist other utilities in the October storm.

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