By Boston Business Journal

The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities said Thursday it would investigate National Grid, after about 20,000 South Shore customers of the utility were without power for days following the Dec. 26 snowstorm.

The DPU said it would evaluate National Gridâ¿¿s preparation for the storm and its efforts to restore power in regions that suffered outages. The department also plans to investigate whether the utility complied with DPU regulations and with its own Emergency Response Plan.

Attorney General Martha Coakley⿿s office said Thursday that it had requested the investigation. The AG⿿s petition cites National Grid⿿s ⿿apparent failure to fully implement the Emergency Response Plan it filed with the DPU,⿝ the office said.

National Grid issued a statement saying that its ⿿top priority in any storm is public safety and the safety of our employees, and restoring power to our customers as quickly and safely as possible.⿝

⿿Within 36 hours of the storm ending, we restored service to more than 30,000 customers across the state at the peak of the storm, and thousands more in the days after, when high winds caused additional outages,⿝ National Grid said in the statement.

If the DPU finds that National Grid has violated any of its standards for restoration of service, the DPU may levy penalties of up to $250,000 per violation, up to a total of $20 million for any related series of violations, Coakleyâ¿¿s office said.

National Gridâ¿¿s Emergency Response Plan requires the company to activate local Emergency Operations Centers prior to a storm â¿¿ which are staging areas to conduct restoration of service â¿¿ and to communicate with municipal officials, public safety providers and customers during a storm event, according to Coakleyâ¿¿s office.

The petition accuses National Grid of failing to activate the staging areas in order to adequately deploy repair crews and failing to coordinate with local officials, in response to a severe winter storm that had been forecasted days in advance, Coakleyâ¿¿s office said.

⿿This failure led to insufficient communication with local officials and resulted in municipal public safety resources being diverted to secure live downed wires, and imposing unreasonable costs on municipalities and preventing them from responding to other emergencies,⿝ the office said in a press release. ⿿This and other failures resulted in undue stress on public safety responders in communities affected by the storm.⿝

National Grid said that it utilized more than 600 crews and hundreds of other employees to get power restored for customers. ⿿We understand that the DPU has a responsibility to look into utility performance and we feel there is always room for improvement in emergency planning,⿝ the utility said in its statement. ⿿We will answer any questions the DPU may have, fully cooperate in the investigation and will work toward enhancing our emergency response plans.⿝

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