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Massachusetts Liberal

Observations on politics, the media and life in Massachusetts and beyond from the left side of the road.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

Three chairs for NSTAR

It's a good thing Massachusetts doesn't have a death penalty or someone might propose the electric chair for NSTAR boss Tom May.

Of course, the power would probably fail before they could carry out the deed.

May was anything but contrite the day after power was restored for most Back Bay residents (and hours before it was taken down again):
“If it’s a normal situation, we do not typically, when there is an outage, provide for losses. We do not typically do it for an event that lasts for a day, a day and a half. . . . People normally have their own insurance.’’
For most normal people a typical outage is when something happens to a transformer on a pole, either from a car or a big wind. Transformers blowing up and burning down a building are not what most normal  people experience.

Nor are multiple-day outages, whether caused by wind, snow or explosion.

May must have been reacting to falling stock prices when he said the company capitalized at $4.95 billion won't help out small businesses like a Newbury Street restaurant out between $5,000 and $10,000 through lost food and customers, a problem exacerbated by the company's failure to correctly estimate the damage or the time needed to repair it.

Never fear, May had the answer:
“When a car hits a pole and knocks it down and hits a transformer, we’ve done that 1,000 times," May said. “But we had never . . . jump-started a grid off of another grid. We were learning, to some degrees, as we went along."
How's that again?

And skipping right over the rest of the contrition section of the crisis communications manual, May says there's no need to investigate further:
"We have nothing we could do that we could think of that is going to tell us why this happened," May said. “It is not an indication this puts us at risk’’ of similar failures.
Unsurprisingly, the opinion is not unanimously shared:
“It may not happen in Boston every year, but it happens all over the country; I’m not surprised,’’ said William H. Bartley, a principal engineer at the Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection and Insurance Co., a leading equipment insurer. He said the failure could be attributed to a wide range of reasons, from vermin chewing on the seals to weakening insulation.
It's safe to assume NSTAR does not consider this an act of God. After all, Tom May didn't do anything wrong here. Just ask him.

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