PROVIDENCE, RI – Lt. Governor Daniel McKee's Utility Emergency Response Bill (H-5327) received substantial support from members of the small business community, municipal leaders, public safety organizations and professional associations during a hearing before the House Committee on Corporations on Tuesday night. Lt. Governor McKee testified in favor of the bill which will improve the emergency preparedness and response of utility companies operating in Rhode Island.
The legislation is modeled after Massachusetts law which, since passed in 2009, has allowed the state to collect over $25 million in fines from utility companies for insufficient emergency response. The legislation requires utilities to submit annual emergency response plans; establishes concrete utility performance standards and increases the level of communication between utilities and local communities during an emergency. All fines collected from utility companies for violating the legislation are credited back to utility ratepayers.
While testifying against the legislation on behalf of National Grid's shareholders, the company's lobbyist claimed the Lt. Governor's legislation was dissimilar to Massachusetts law, misleading the committee to believe variances were significant and onerous. The Lt. Governor's Office will inform the committee of the few differences between the Rhode Island legislation and Massachusetts law. Some differences between the bill and the law are necessary to accommodate the difference in the structures of state agencies and regulatory bodies between the two states.
"This legislation is about deciding whether we represent the interests of the utility companies' shareholders or the interests of Rhode Island ratepayers. As Lt. Governor, I represent the ratepayers. Rhode Islanders deserve to benefit from the Utility Emergency Response Bill which is a proven measure that delivers real results for consumers in nearby states. It is time to hold utility companies to a higher standard in Rhode Island. Extended power outages are a public safety issue and an economic issue that we cannot ignore any longer," said Lt. Governor McKee.
"As a State Representative, it's my job to advocate for measures that benefit the people in my district and throughout our state. Two of Rhode Islanders' top concerns are often the cost of energy and the responsiveness and reliability of our state's utility companies. With all that has happened in Newport, we must take action to ensure our communities are protected," said Representative Brian P. Kennedy (D-Hopkinton, Westerly), sponsor of the Utility Emergency Response Bill.
Senator Roger A. Picard (D-Cumberland, Woonsocket) is the sponsor of the Lt. Governor's Utility Emergency Response Bill (S-261) in the Senate.
The Utility Emergency Response Bill received support from:
Municipalities Donald Grebien, Mayor of Pawtucket Joseph Solomon, Mayor of Warwick James Diossa, Mayor of Central Falls Lisa Baldelli-Hunt, Mayor of Woonsocket Joseph Polisena, Mayor of Johnston Charles Lombardi, Mayor of North Providence Jorge Elorza, Mayor of Providence Jeffrey Mutter, Mayor of Cumberland T. Joseph Almond, Town Administrator of Lincoln James Cunha, Town Manager of Barrington Steven Contente, Town Administrator of Bristol Kate Michaud, Town Manager of Warren Gary S. Ezovski, Town Administrator of North Smithfield Roberto DaSilva, Mayor of East Providence Allan W. Fung, Mayor of Cranston
Chambers of Commerce Newport County Chamber of Commerce Greater Cranston Chamber of Commerce East Greenwich Chamber of Commerce Rhode Island Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Business Organizations Rhode Island Business Coalition Rhode Island Manufacturers Association Rhode Island Society of Certified Public Accountants Misquamicut Business Association Rhode Island Farm Bureau
Professional Associations Rhode Island Association of Community Action Agencies
Public Safety Organizations Rhode Island Police Chiefs Association Rhode Island Fire Chiefs Association Rhode Island Association of Emergency Managers
Government Agencies/Officials Attorney General Peter Neronha Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities & Carriers