AN ACT RELATIVE TO THE EMERGENCY SERVICE RESPONSE OF PUBLIC UTILITY COMPANIES.
Whereas, The deferred operation of this act would tend to defeat its purpose, which is to forthwith provide for emergency service response of public utility companies, therefore it is hereby declared to be an emergency law, necessary for the immediate preservation of the public safety.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Court assembled, and by the authority of the same as follows:
SECTION 1. Chapter 25 of the General Laws, is hereby amended by inserting after section 12O the following section:-
Section 12P. There shall be established and set up on the books of the commonwealth a separate fund to be known as the Department of Public Utilities Storm Trust Fund. There shall be credited to this fund all amounts collected under the third paragraph of section 18 and any income derived from the investment of amounts credited to the fund. All amounts credited to the fund shall be held in trust and shall be available for expenditure, without further appropriation, by the department of public utilities for activities of the department in investigating the preparation for and responses to storm and other emergency events by the electric companies. Any unexpended balance in the fund at the close of a fiscal year shall remain in the fund and shall be available for expenditure in the following fiscal year.
SECTION 2. Section 18 of said chapter 25, as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, is hereby amended by inserting after the second paragraph the following paragraph:-
For the purpose of providing the department with additional operating funds for activities of the department in investigating the preparation for and responses to storm and other emergency events by the electric companies doing business in the commonwealth, the commission may make a separate assessment proportionally against each electric 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 electric service, as shown in the annual report of each of the companies to the department. This assessment shall be made at a rate that shall be determined and certified annually by the commission as sufficient to produce an annual amount of not less than $165,000, plus the costs of fringe benefits and indirect costs as established by the secretary of administration and finance under section 5D of chapter 29, including group life and health insurance, retirement benefits, paid vacations, holidays and sick leave. 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. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, no electric 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 Storm Trust Fund established in section 12P.
SECTION 3. Chapter 164 of the General Laws is hereby amended by inserting after section 1J the following section:-
Section 1K. Any penalty levied by the department against an investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company for any violation of the department’s standards of acceptable performance for emergency preparation and restoration of service for electric and gas distribution companies shall be credited back to the company’s customers in a manner determined by the department.
SECTION 4. Section 85B of said chapter 164 is hereby amended by striking out subsection (a), as appearing in the 2010 Official Edition, and inserting in place thereof the following subsection:-
(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.
SECTION 5. Said section 85B of said chapter 164, as so appearing, is hereby further amended by adding the following 5 subsections:-
(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.
SECTION 6. An investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company with a call center within 50 miles of their service area, in operation as of January 1, 2012, shall not be required to designate an additional call center under paragraph (8) of subsection (a) of section 85B of chapter 164 of the General Laws as long as the call center continues in operation. If said call center is unable to operate during an emergency event, such investor-owned electric distribution, transmission or natural gas distribution company shall utilize a call center within 50 miles of the commonwealth.
SECTION 7. Notwithstanding any general or special law to the contrary, any transmission company, as defined by section 1 of chapter 164 of the General Laws, performing vegetation maintenance activities within a transmission right-of-way shall make a good faith effort to notify right-of-way abutters not less than 30 days before any vegetation maintenance activities in any community where vegetation maintenance activities will occur. Transmission companies shall also provide said notification to the department of public utilities and the mayor, city manager or chairman of the board of selectmen in the municipality where the right-of-way lies. The notification shall provide a description of vegetation maintenance activities to be performed and the locations of such activities. Transmission companies shall be exempt from the notification requirements of this section in preparation for an imminent emergency event or during any emergency event.
The department of public utilities shall promulgate rules and regulations to carry out this section.
Approved, August 6, 2012.