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The 193rd General Court of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts

Section 4B: Authority of commissioner upon declaration of state of emergency

Section 4B. Upon declaration by the governor that a state of emergency exists, the governor may authorize the chairman of the department of public utilities to take such action that the chairman may consider necessary to assure public safety and welfare through the priority restoration or continuing availability of gas, electric and water utility services. Under such authority, the chairman may issue operational and management directives and order expenditures or other measures by any investor-owned utility that the chairman considers necessary to respond to the state of emergency, including but not limited to, expenditures for the deployment of personnel, equipment and other assets or property of an alternative utility to assume responsibility for the restoration of service if, in the judgment of the chairman, the affected utility is incapable of restoring service. The chairman shall have immediate access to all utility documents, information and personnel necessary to respond to the state of emergency; provided, however, that documents and information provided to the chairman during such state of emergency shall be subject to the exemption provided by subclause (n) of clause 26 of section 7 of chapter 4, to the extent necessary to protect the public safety. The chairman may temporarily suspend any department rule or regulation and implement any emergency rule, procedure or protocol that is necessary to respond to the emergency. Any orders issued by the chairman shall expire within 30 business days unless ratified by the commission prior to the 30 day expiration; provided, however, that said ratification by the commission shall prescribe an end date for each order. Expenses authorized by the chairman under this section may be recognized by the department for all purposes as proper business expenses of the affected utility or alternative utility subject to investigation and recovery through rates. The affected utility shall be required to reimburse the alternative utility for all its costs incurred within 90 days of the receipt of invoices for the cost of service. Failure of any investor-owned utility to carry out an order by the chairman authorized under this section shall be subject to investigation and a penalty of up to $1,000,000 per violation. A penalty levied by the department shall be returned to ratepayers through distribution rates. Any investor-owned utility aggrieved by an order or directive issued by the chairman under this section may request a hearing within 90 days from the date the state of emergency ends.