Few residents show up to National Grid hearing

Above: National Grid president Marcy Reed speaks at a hearing at Trottier last night

Southborough residents had plenty of ire for National Grid during the last two power outages, but that didn’t translate into attendance at a public hearing on the utility last night at Trottier. Only a handful of residents turned out to hear National Grid talk about their storm response.

The hearing was part of an ongoing investigation into National Grid and NStar preparation and response to Tropical Storm Irene and the October Nor’easter. The investigation is being conducted by the state Department of Public Utilities.

Only two residents spoke at the hearing, and both expressed concern about how National Grid will handle the winter storm season to come.

“I don’t know how to convey my anger at this whole situation,” resident Louise Barron said. “We’re not even in throws of winter yet. What’s going to happen to us then?

“I think this is more than inexcusable, this is disgusting,” she told state and local officials gathered at the hearing. “I think we’ve had enough of National Grid.”

Selectman Bill Boland and Southborough Emergency Management Director Neal Aspesi also spoke at the hearing, focusing most of their criticism on the lack of communication from National Grid.

“When you see for two days that the situation in your town is still being assessed, and that the total restoration for your town is four days out…it gets people angry,” Boland said. “You need to do a better job of getting information out to customers.”

You can read a more detailed recap of the hearing – including what National Grid president Marcy Reed had to say – in this article by the Metrowest Daily News.

Are you surprised to learn the hearing was so poorly attended? Why do you think that was? Are you still angry with National Grid? Do you think they need to make changes to their response and preparation plans? Share your thoughts in the comments.

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Alan Belniak
10 years ago

I didn’t even know the hearing was happening until I saw a post on Facebook (perhaps by you) as recently as yesterday. That’s not to say it was poorly advertised. Maybe it was plastered everywhere – I just didn’t know about it. I would like to submit feedback, so if there’s an asynchronous/digital form, I’d like to know about that.

I’m frustrated with National Grid’s communication style, frequency, and general approach. I’m not sure if I’m frustrated with them as an agency, because we as customers have little visibility into the damage and how to mitigate it. As in, it’s easy to be an armchair quarterback, but we don’t really know what’s going on behind the scenes. I do wish, though, that our electricity were restored sooner in each case.

Southside Gadsden Flyer
10 years ago
Reply to  Alan Belniak

Here is the information on how to submit written comments to the DPU from the handout given last night: ” If you cannot or choose not to testify tonight, you may still submit written comments to the DPU. Please mail your comments to Mark D. Marini, Secretary, Department of Public Utilities, One South Station, 5th Floor, Boston, Massachusetts 02110; send a copy by e-mail attachment to dpu.efiling@state.ma.us and to the Hearing Officer at Jennifer.M.Murphy@state.ma.us

:”

Matt Chiocco
10 years ago

I attended last night’s meeting and chose not to speak. The DPU made it clear that this was just a hearing to open an investigation into National Grid’s response during the two storms. I was looking for more of a discussion — a chance for National Grid to field questions. For example, why did the nearby towns of Westborough and Framingham appear to have little trouble in restoring service or not losing power at all?

After the state and local officials’ testimony, I personally didn’t feel there was much that could be added to the hearing. For me, I am more outraged by the lack of options and the seemingly inadequate technology for power distribution in the town. To address any potential alternatives, I sent an email to the Board of Selectmen after the meeting to determine if there is a course of action for implementing alternative power options (i.e. municipal power, underground lines, etc.). I only hope there is a response from the Board to field questions from residents about the response as well as alternatives.

Frank Crowell
10 years ago

I would have attended but was out of town on business. We need alternatives/competition or this will just happen again. I am assessing the cost of adding a generator.

Southside Gadsden Flyer
10 years ago

I attended last night and also chose not to speak. It was my first attendance at this type of hearing, so I, like Matt above, was expecting a chance to question them. I didn’t speak formally because my only real gripe with national grid is about their tree trimming which is a preventative measure. When I moved to town in 2004, you could request an arborist right from their home web page. Now that information is buried, and what they do have posted on the website lists the communities/roads scheduled for 2009-2010 trimming. So it’s a little dated, and nearly impossible to request trimming when you see a potential problem. I will submit written comments to the Commonwealth before next week’s deadline.

Laura
10 years ago

I may be in the minority, but I wasn’t all that miffed by the power outage. I didn’t like it, but when I look around at all the downed trees I understand why it happens. (BTW Why hasn’t any cut the tree leaning on wires on the corner of Main Street & Chestnut Hill Road?) I think it’s too easy to bash the utilities without understanding the obstacles they face. Southborough is a tree-filled community and with that comes storm damage. I have lived in town about 10 years and this is the only the second lengthy power outage I experienced. Granted they were somewhat back to back, but then I never experienced an October snowstorm either. I moved from a neighboring town and we routinely experienced multi-hour outages. And, I guess the good in me believes that the utilities are working as hard as possible to get power restored. If I thought there was negligence, I’d speak up. I think sometimes we expect too much.

Alan Belniak
10 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I mostly agree with Laura. The power outage was an inconvenience (more so if you care for elderly or have young ones [I do]). I wasn’t so miffed about the power outage as I was about the lack of visibility into addressing how service would be brought back online. And the estimate of 11:45p by Thursday night was the same estimate (date *and* time!) for a lot of surrounding communities. This tells me that they were trying to meet a “by midnight on ___” order. It came back on much sooner than that for others. This gives the illusion of under promise/over deliver. But when the bar is set that low, its nearly impossible to fail. And I agree 100% about the trees. I’m not suggesting defoliating the town, but some selective trimming seems to be in order.

Frank Crowell
10 years ago
Reply to  Alan Belniak

Would either of you have the same opinion if this had occurred in February?

I have lived all over the US and have never been without power for longer then 6 hours bigger storms as well. Two instances of power out for 48 hours or more. Once OK – the second time tells me nothing was learned and no preventative action taken.

Laura
10 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

I don’t think I would feel any differently had this happened in Feb. I would take preventative measures such as draining my pipes which I didn’t have to do with the past two storms. I guess my point is Mother Nature is unpredictable. I am just not eager to point the blame at National Grid. What are they supposed to do when the outage exceeds their staff? I saw the line of trucks gassing up at the Hess station on route 9 very early into the outage, so I feel that they were responding to the situation, and I understand that we are a small town and their main concern is to bring as many customers online in the shortest amount of time. Yes, an online update or more phone communication would be appreciated and should not be that difficult to implement.

SJL
10 years ago
Reply to  Laura

I also agree with Laura. I have family in Buffalo, NY and 3-4 years ago they had a bad, freak October snowstorm that was very similar to this one, although lake effect storms are often much more localized. The landscape changed when all the trees toppled because they still had foliage. My parents were out of power for 3 days and my sister for 8 days. So, given the large area up and down the coast affected by this storm, the length of the outage isn’t surprising.

John Kendall
10 years ago

I still think the operated better and were much more visible when they were Mass Electric.

A Little Logic
10 years ago

I don’t think there is any doubt that the largest issue that NGrid needs to address is not the length of the outages, but the flow of accurate information about restoring power (or, in this case, the lack of such information flow). I certainly agree that NGrid must be compelled to give the most timely and accurate data it can possibly give.

But to those who want to complain about the length of an outage, for goodness’ sake remember that every minute/hour/day that the power was off was a minute/hour/day for which NGrid received no revenue. Nobody wanted the power back on and flowing more than they did.

Kelly Roney
10 years ago
Reply to  A Little Logic

Here’s some doubt. I see the problem, not as one of timely information, but one of lack of surge capacity to repair the grid. To increase profits, the grid companies have cut staff drastically and rely on nationwide resources, which I hear they have to bid for at auction. If they plan badly, they aren’t ready with confirmed personnel, and then we wait for linemen to drive in with their bucket trucks from 1000 miles away.

It wasn’t always this way. There were more personnel closer by, and this meant both faster response and better maintenance of the lines, including tree-trimming.

The weird thing is that the previous model – as seen in its remnants, local electrical cooperatives such as Shrewsbury’s – are both cheaper and faster to service restoration. That says to me that, by allowing such awful performance from National Grid, we’re simply organizing the distribution of electricity wrong.

A Little Logic
10 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Mr. Roney, I think that you just used my post to refute a point that I didn’t try to make. My only point was that, during the time after an outage occurs (which is the time frame on which most of the commentary has focused in this discussion), our desire as customers and National Grid’s incentive as provider are the same, i.e., to get the power back on as soon as possible. And so there’s no logic in folks’ suggesting that National Grid cavalierly dithered in accomplishing that task.

Now to your point — I certainly am not suggesting that the current system for power generation, distribution, or (most importantly for this discussion) outage response, is optimal. That’s a much larger question, and I won’t disagree with anyone who thinks that we ought to follow up on it.

Kelly Roney
10 years ago
Reply to  A Little Logic

Fair enough, Logic, though I believe National Grid has intentionally built a repair system that’s less attentive to response time than it is to providing CEO bonuses.

A Little Logic
10 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

Ah, that may well be. And if it is, then I would suggest that a regulatory system that engenders such anti-consumer behavior (e.g., paying corporate bonuses before fully staffing outage response teams) needs to be reformed or, better yet, scrapped. I don’t believe that “competition” is ever a four letter word.

Kelly Roney
10 years ago

I definitely would have been there except that my daughter was playing jazz at MIT. Some things come before electricity!

Laura
10 years ago
Reply to  Kelly Roney

What year? What course? (Mine graduated a few years back.) I’m glad your priorities are in order! I hope the concert was great!

Kelly Roney
10 years ago
Reply to  Laura

She’s a senior at Wellesley but has played in a couple of MIT jazz ensembles over the years. And yes, the concert was excellent, especially her combo. There’s a lot of good live music at MIT.

carrie alpert
10 years ago

after this go around i am no longer putting my faith in National Grid to get it together. I do not want in the middle of January to have the trees come crashing down again–and completely agree that the excessive limbs need to be trimmed back especially the dead ones–and be without power = heat. We have an electrician coming over next week (one of the awesome guys at Falconi gave us his name after we had to have them out after the storm, our power was restored but our burner would not fire) to do what needs to be done to install a large enough generator and to keep our heat/lights going. My husband is very capable and hands on but to those who want to go this route I have to give my 2 cents and that is hire a professional as it requires hard wiring and splitting wires.
i also think that the weather pattern has indeed changed but that topic is for another thread, there is hardly enough manpower to keep up with all of the curve balls mother nature throws us.

Helen
10 years ago

I think Kelly Roney hit the nail on the head when he said that the power companies have cut staff… they’ve also delayed maintenance on many more items than just trimming trees, which makes the linepersons’ jobs even more dangerous.

I worked as a contractor (in the office) for New England Power – parent of Mass Electric for nearly 7 years before they got bought out by National Grid – which is a U.K. company, NOT a U.S.-owned company. While I was there a long time ago, at that time the husband of a co-worker told us that the sub-stations were seriously out of date, all of them needed to be upgraded, and it just wasn’t being done. Delayed maintenance. There was an explosion at a substation that killed an employee, and seriously burned 2 others… but many of these accidents are not attributed to the electric company, but are blamed on their subcontractors, so the “LTA’s” remain low. Safety first was not happening and this was 10 years ago. I don’t believe that it’s any better, and I wish Southborough would look into the type of system that Hudson and Shrewsbury have. From what I understand, their electric service costs less and wasn’t out as long.

The bottom line is, there weren’t any crews in this area for nearly 2 days or more. Once they got here, the power came on. They weren’t here because the power company’s bottom line is to their stockholders – not to their customers – and we don’t have a choice for service delivery. So we got to sit in the dark.

Frank Crowell
10 years ago

If you thought our electricity reliability will get better once National Grid figures things out, you might want to read this article from the WSJ.



http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052970204262304577068643772900890.html?mod=WSJ_Opinion_LEADTop

Kelly Roney
10 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Thanks, Frank, more points of view are always welcome. But none of this carbon-reducing regulation had anything to do with the local grid’s failure, nor with the grid companies’ failure to restore it quickly. We endured physical disruption of the local infrastructure, not supply shortages of the regional high-tension grid due to lack of generating capacity.

Neil Rossen
10 years ago
Reply to  Frank Crowell

Regulation usually compresses profits. Utilities must serve their shareholders too. BTW, I have no complaints. I thought they did the best they could under the circumstances. This administration is setting regulatory records and ruining our economy.

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