Mass. law pushes utilities to improve services

AP News
Posted: Nov 13, 2009 11:44 AM

Gov. Deval Patrick has signed a new law penalizes utility companies that fail to provide safe and reliable service to customers after major storms.

Patrick signed the legislation Thursday in Lunenburg, one of the towns hit hardest when electric utility Unitil Corp. struggled to restore power after a devastating ice storm last December. More than 1,000 customers had no electricity for 12 days or more after the storm.

The new law gives the state regulators powers to order utilities companies to spend extra cash and redeploy resources to restore service. Failure carries a penalty of up to $1 million per violation.

The state attorney general is also may now petition the state's Superior Court to appoint a temporary receiver for utilities with less than 100,000 customers if they fail in their duties.