Holliston Resident Testified: NSTAR Used 'Band-Aid' Fix
Roughly 50 people attended a state hearing on NSTAR's response during two recent weather-related events.
Holliston resident Lee Cohen testified this week at a hearing about NSTAR's response during power outages this year.
Cohen said all the homes in the subdivision lost power during Irene on Sunday, but a select 70 homes didn't get power back until Wednesday. And when the snowstorm stuck, the same 70 homes were again days without power and heat.
"Obviously, it is a case of infrastructure failure," he said. He said NSTAR's solution to the Irene problem was just a Band-Aid, since the problem happened again in October.
Cohen was one of a half-dozen NSTAR customers who testified Wednesday night at a hearing by the Massachusetts Department of Utilities at Walsh Middle School in Framingham, on the response of NSTAR following Irene and the October snowstorm.
Many of the residents, who provided sworn testimony Wednesday night, were frustrated and angry with the lack of communication and response by NSTAR during "Snowtober" given that many of the same neighborhoods were without power for days in August/September after Irene rolled through Massachusetts.
NSTAR Vice President of Customer Care Penni Conner told those in attendance Wednesday night her CEO reminded them "our customers don't like to be in the dark figuratively and literally."
She said that NSTAR was able to provide a live person for customers who called on Tuesday 65 percent of the time and 90 percent of the time by Thursday, after Irene. She said during the outages NSTAR reps were calling those without power twice a day to give them updates.
But NSTAR customers, who testified at Walsh, told a different story.
"I really feel like we are in the dark," Andrea Barrett, who lives in Framingham and said she threw away food twice. After hearing that the CEO of NSTAR makes $7.9 million she suggested, "we should all get a refund, $20 back to each customer to say we (NSTAR) are sorry."
One Acton resident testified that three times he received a call from NSTAR that power was restored only to learn each time he arrived home, it had not.
Howard Schwartz of Framingham testified that four days without power is "excessive. It should never occur."
Schwartz was one of a handful of NSTAR customers who testified he lost power in both storms. He said NSTAR didn't learn any lessons from Irene, when weeks later, the outage happened again, this time without power and heat.
Residents were not the only ones who gave sworn testimony.
NSTAR Vice President Craig Hallstrom said post-Irene, more than 500,000 NSTAR customers lost power, but within 72 hours 97 percent of power was restored and 232,000 customers were restored within an hour of going out.
This was the fourth and final hearing as part of the investigation into NSTAR and National Grid response to customers after Irene by the state's department of public utilities. The other hearings were held in Plymouth, Barnstable and New Bedford.
The state can levy fines and requirements utility companies update and change policies and procedures based on the investigation. The Department of Public Utilities is accepting written testimony until Wednesday, Nov. 23.