Skip to Content

General Laws

Section 85B. (a) Each electric distribution, transmission and natural gas distribution company conducting business in the commonwealth shall annually, on or before May 15, submit to the department an emergency response plan for review and approval. The emergency response plan shall be designed for the reasonably prompt restoration of service in the case of an emergency event, which is an event where widespread outages have occurred in the service area of the company due to storms or other causes beyond the control of the company. The emergency response plan shall include, but not be limited to, the following:—

(1) the identification of management staff responsible for company operations during an emergency, the number of service workers who are available to respond to an emergency within 24 hours and an estimate of the number of crews who are available to respond to an emergency within 24 hours;

(2) a communications system with customers during an emergency that includes continuous access to staff assistance and 3 times daily updates on estimated return of service including via telephone, a website in which the 3 times daily updates shall be displayed prominently for easy public access and 1 other form of appropriate media outreach; provided, that such updates shall begin upon completion of a damage assessment or after the first 24 hours of a damage assessment, whichever occurs first;

(3) contact with and procedures for prioritizing power restoration to customers who had documented their need for essential electricity for medical needs including, but not limited to elderly and physically challenged customers;

(4)(i) designation of staff to communicate with designated local emergency management officials, relevant regulatory agencies and designated community liaisons as required by subsection (f); and (ii) designation of staff to be posted at the Massachusetts emergency management agency’s emergency operations center, as required by subsection (e);

(5) provisions regarding how the company will assure the safety of its employees and contractors;

(6) procedures for deploying company and mutual aid crews to work assignment areas;

(7) identification of additional supplies and equipment needed during an emergency and the means of obtaining additional supplies and equipment; and

(8) designation of a call center in the commonwealth for service assistance for the duration of an emergency or until full service is restored, whichever occurs first. The call center shall be staffed continuously for the duration of the emergency and to ensure sufficient staffing levels to handle all customer calls.

The filing with the department shall also include a copy of all written mutual assistance agreements among utilities. The department shall accord protected treatment under section 5D of chapter 25 of confidential, competitively sensitive or other proprietary information contained in any emergency response plan and shall also confirm the application of subclause (n) of clause Twenty-sixth of section 7 of chapter 4 so as not to jeopardize public safety.

(b) After review of an investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company’s emergency response plan the department may request that the company amend the plan. The department may open an investigation of the company’s plan. If, after hearings, the department finds a material deficiency in the plan, the department may order the company to make such modifications that it deems reasonably necessary to remedy the deficiency.

(c) Any investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company failing to file its emergency response plan may be fined $500 for each day during which such failure continues. The fines levied by the department shall be returned to ratepayers through distribution rates.

(d) Notwithstanding any existing power or authority, the department may open an investigation to review the performance of any investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company in restoring service during an emergency event. If, after evidentiary hearings or other investigatory proceedings, the department finds that, as a result of the failure of the company to implement its emergency response plan, the length of the outages were materially longer than they would have been but for the company’s failure, the department may deny the recovery of all, or any part of, the service restoration costs through distribution rates, commensurate with the degree and impact of the service outage.

(e) Each investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company, when implementing an emergency response plan, shall designate an employee or employees to remain stationed at the Massachusetts emergency management agency’s emergency operations center for the length of the emergency. The employee or employees shall coordinate communications efforts with designated local emergency management officials and emergency management officials, as required by this section.

(f) Each investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company, when implementing an emergency response plan, shall designate an employee or employees to serve as community liaisons for each municipality within their service territory. An investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company shall provide each community liaison with the necessary feeder map or maps outlining municipal substations and distribution networks and up-to-date customer outage reports at the time of designation as a community liaison. An investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company shall provide each community liaison with 3 times daily customer outage report updates for the liaison’s respective city or town. The community liaison shall utilize the maps and outage reports to respond to inquiries from state and local officials and relevant regulatory agencies.

(g) Notwithstanding any general or special law or rule or regulation to the contrary, each electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company conducting business in the commonwealth shall provide periodic reports to the department and the Massachusetts emergency management agency regarding emergency conditions and restoration performance during an emergency event.

(h) Each investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company shall file with the emergency management director of each municipality within their service territory a copy of the emergency response plan and any updates. Failure to file the plan with each emergency management director shall result in a fine of $500. The fines levied by the department shall be returned to ratepayers through distribution rates in a manner determined by the department.

(i) On or before October 1 of each year, every city or town shall notify each investor-owned electric distribution or natural gas distribution company and the Massachusetts emergency management agency the name of the emergency management official or designee responsible for coordinating the emergency response during storm restoration. If a municipality does not have a designated emergency management official, the chief municipal officer shall designate 1 public safety official responsible for said emergency response.

Error