SECTION 1: Chapter 25 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 12P the following:
Whereas, the deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to establish a fund to mitigate the instance of ratepayer hikes after emergency events, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public convenience.
There shall be established and set up on the books of the commonwealth a separate fund to be known as the Department of Utilities Disaster Relief Fund. There shall be credited to this fund all amounts collected under G.L. C C 164 Sec 144 (h); G.L. c. 25 sec 18 par 1, and any other assessments made by the department for this purpose. All amounts credited to this fund shall be held in trust and shall be available for expenditure, without further appropriation, by the department of public utilities to mitigate any rate hikes following a declared emergency, accident, insolvency, bankruptcy or other event of a gas company that would otherwise result in rate increases. The intent of this fund is to secure sufficient monies, notwithstanding any insurance policies, to ensure that the enumerated events will not result in rate increases passed along to ratepayers.
SECTION 2: Chapter 25 of the General Laws Section 18 is hereby amended by inserting after paragraph 3 the following:
Section 18: For the purpose of providing the department with additional operating funds for mitigating the effect of any emergency events on the rates paid to gas companies doing business in the commonwealth, the commission may make a separate assessment proportionally against each gas company under the jurisdictional control of the department, based upon the intrastate operating revenues subject to the jurisdiction of the department of each of the companies derived from sales within the commonwealth of gas service, as shown in the annual report of each of the companies to the department. The amount of the assessment may be increased by the commission annually by a rate not to exceed the most recent annual consumer price index as calculated for the northeast region for all urban consumers. In addition, there shall be an assessment to each gas company that incurs a penalty pursuant to the pay ratio surtax as described in GL c. 25 Sec 18B. Any assessment shall be made at a rate that shall be determined and certified annually by the commission as sufficient to produce an annual amount sufficient to protect consumers from the potential of both losing service for significant periods of time and additionally facing rate increases due to company losses including the possibility of insolvency or bankruptcy protection which would undoubtedly pass the cost of service and repair for damages to the consumer. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, no gas company may seek recovery of any assessments made under this paragraph in any rate proceeding before the department. Each company shall pay the amount assessed against it within 30 days after the date of the notice of assessment from the department. Such assessments shall be collected by the department and credited to the Department of Public Utilities Disaster Mitigation Trust Fund established in section 12Q.
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