Thursday, February 16, 2012

Senate Republican Caucus Calls For Moratorium on All Utility Mergers

In response to the rapidly paced approval by the Patrick Administration of the NSTAR/Cape Wind merger, the Senate Republican Caucus filed an amendment today to S.2140, "An Act relative to the emergency service response of public utility companies" that would install a three month moratorium on all approvals of utility mergers. The moratorium would provide the Department of Public Utilities three months to complete any outstanding regulatory investigations, procedures and reviews involving storm response by the department.

Last year several regions of the state were hit particularly hard after an October 2011 snowstorm where wind gusts of 69 mph and 32 inches of snowfall was reported in some areas of the state, leaving more than 600,000 Massachusetts utility customers without power. The amendment would place a higher priority to complete storm response reviews such as the October storm, which has yet to be completed, and other long overdue investigations with utility providers.

Additionally, the moratorium would allow constituents of the Commonwealth with the opportunity to fully understand the benefits and ramifications of such mergers before an agreement would go into effect.

Today we are acting on a bill to improve emergency responses when power goes out. In addition to reacting to past emergencies, we should take action now to ensure that a merger on the fast track to approval doesn’t pose a risk to electrical service for ratepayers all across the state in the future. Before we allow this major merger to be finalized, we should ensure that we have the answers that will come from current and ongoing investigations by the Department of Public Utilities.

Unfortunately, the amendment failed in a roll call vote of 7-29. The Senate Republican Caucus will continue to fight for full transparency regarding public utility mergers such as these.