Whip Kazarian Introduces Bill to Hold Utility Companies Accountable for Outages and Utility Restoration After Emergencies

 

STATE HOUSE – House Majority Whip Katherine S. Kazarian (D-Dist. 63, East Providence) has introduced legislation (2021-H 5956) which would hold utility companies accountable for outages and utility restoration during storms and emergencies.

“As I have referenced before, East Providence, the community I represent, has had five power outages over the last year while communities over the border like Seekonk are able to keep the lights on for their ratepayers.  Something clearly is not working and the ratepayers of Rhode Island deserve far better service when one considers the high amounts of money that we all pay for our utilities,” said Whip Kazarian.

The legislation, modeled after a bill enacted in Massachusetts in 2009, would grant the chair of the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) and the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers (DPUC) emergency powers during governor declared emergencies for the restoration of all utility services.

Under these emergency powers, the chair may issue operational and management directives and order expenditures or other measures by any investor-owned utility that the chair 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 chair, the affected utility is incapable of restoring service.

The bill will also require the DPUC to adopt rules and regulations to establish standards for emergency preparation and restoration of utility service and to establish penalties for violation of these standards.  Any fees or penalties collected by the DPUC would be directly returned to the ratepayers.

According to the legislation, utility carriers must file an annual emergency response plan, which is subject to the review and approval of the DPUC, for the purposes of prompt utility restoration after a storm or other emergency.

“We have given the utility companies every chance to provide the service that Rhode Islanders pay handsomely for and deserve, yet every year, we all are experiencing more and longer periods of utility outage.  Power and heat are not luxuries that people can afford to go without and this legislation will not only hold our well-paid utility companies accountable for unreliable and lackluster service, but more importantly, it will cause these companies to prepare properly so that future storms and emergencies no long jeopardize crucial utility services,” concluded Whip Kazarian.

The bill has been referred to the House Corporations Committee.

NBC News says the suspect in the Indianapolis mass shooting is 19-year-old Brandon Scott Hole. There's still no motive and it's not known if Hole worked at the FedEx facility where the shooting took place. Deputy Chief Craig McCartt said it appears the suspect took his own life before officers entered the building.       Vice President Harris is calling for an end to gun violence in the U.S. after eight people were killed in a mass shooting in Indianapolis. She addressed the shooting when she spoke to reporters earlier today. Harris also said she and President Biden are thinking of the families of the eight victims.       Two people are dead following an officer-involved shooting in San Antonio. Chief William McManus says an officer was shot in the hand this morning on the West Side of the city after talking with the suspects during a traffic stop. The officer returned fire, killing two suspects and wounding a third.       Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga [[ yow-she-HE-day SHOO-guh ]] is at the White House for talks with President Biden. It is Biden's first in-person meeting with a foreign leader during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. There will be a joint news conference later today.       President Biden is not raising the refugee cap despite pledging to do so. He's keeping the number at 15-thousand this year. Biden previously said he wants to raise the refugee cap to roughly 60-thousand.       Former NBA superstar Dwyane Wade is buying an ownership stake in the Utah Jazz. The 39-year-old Wade joins an ownership team led by Ryan Smith. How much of a stake Wade has is not being released, but the NBA has a bylaw that requires no ownership stake can be less than one-percent.