Like many residents, I was angered by the lengthy power failures across MetroWest that occurred during our last big winter blast on October 29th, and statewide in the wake of Tropical Storm Irene.
State Rep. Dan Winslow’s (R-Norfolk) Power Outage Rebate Bill (House 3829) is meant to encourage utility companies to spend more money to protect against power failures before they occur.
Winslow has correctly noted that the utility companies ignore tree branches that are growing around power lines because it’s cheaper to deal with power failures after they happen.
Since these firms are monopoly operations, it’s time for the Legislature to take action.
The bill would force utility companies to offer a refund to customers if they are without power for more than eight hours. The refund, which would be active for each day customers are without power, would total roughly two days of the customer's average electrical bill. (The eight hour buffer period would keep firms from crediting customers for brief outages).
Sen. Scott Brown said he supports the Power Outage Rebate Bill, and so do I:
"What’s at the heart of this issue is safety. We had power out in homes with young children, and seniors living alone, with temperatures dropping to freezing at night. We need to put in place financial penalties for the utilities so they will allocate sufficient resources to preventing a recurrence of the problem." Said Brown.
Risk to public safety that can easily be avoided is the goal of the bill’s proponents. The Legislature and Governor should immediately undertake a meeting of the power companies to devise a more proactive strategy - before Mother Nature strikes again, and before this legislation hopefully becomes law.