MILTON, NOV. 2 - Representative Driscoll joined colleagues this week in co-signing a letter to the Department of Public Utilities. It reads:
Ms. Angela M. O’Connor
Chair, Department of Public Utilities
1 South Station, 5th Floor
Boston, MA 02210
Dear Chairman O’Connor:
We are deeply troubled by the events of the last several months related to the operations and oversight of the natural gas system in the Commonwealth.
As we approach the winter months, our constituents have registered concerns about the ability of our natural gas public utilities to provide basic services to residences and businesses in a safe, reliable and efficient manner. We want to assure the residents of Massachusetts that the Commonwealth is doing everything in its power to oversee our public utilities. We also want to ensure that the workforce operating and maintaining our pipelines is up to the task. We do not believe a continued lock-out of National Grid Steelworkers helps meet these ends.
We have experienced at least two over-pressurization events in as many months. There have been numerous additional safety complaints submitted to your agency in the weeks and months prior to the explosions in the Merrimack Valley. The moratorium put in place by your agency on National Grid and Columbia Gas was a welcomed intervention. However, we fear that a moratorium alone is not sufficient. There were hopes that the moratorium would bring the locked out gas workers back to work; that desired effect has yet to be realized. Further, new construction projects, vital to the economic development in some of our districts, are experiencing delays because of the inability to make new service connections in a timely manner. DPU has also issued safety citations during these past few months. We appreciate these actions but would like a better assessment of their effect on the industry.
Public utilities, and their shareholders, enjoy a unique business model derived from the authority granted to them by the Commonwealth. This relationship was created because the goods and services the utilities provide are vital to a functioning society. As DPU sets the rates for our public utilities it is incumbent upon us in government to assure that the ratepayers are getting safe, reliable service commensurate with the rate increases granted to the utilities. We believe ratepayers and/or taxpayers should not bear the financial costs of a lock-out imposed by a publicly traded company, but rather the costs should be absorbed by that company.
We respectfully request that the DPU continues to exercise its statutory authority, including its ability to issue fines, to protect the public as we consider further remedies to ensure the safety of our constituents. We offer our assistance in ensuring that we, the Commonwealth, are using our statutory authority to the full extent necessary to enforce public safety standards on our public utilities at this time.
Daniel J. Ryan William J. Driscoll, Jr.
State Representative State Representative
2nd Suffolk District 7th Norfolk District