State Rep. Daniel Winslow (R-Norfolk) is getting attention for a that would require utility companies to provide rebates for long power outages.
Winslow said he proposed the bill after the outages caused by Tropical Storm Irene.
"It would require the utilities to rebate customers two days for every one day where they went more than eight hours without power," he said. "The utilities are a monopoly — they're not subject to competitive pressures."
He said this bill would incentivize companies to aggressively trim tree limbs and upgrade their power stations.
Winslow pointed to the town of Princeton, Mass. as an example. He said Princeton's municipal electrical department worked aggressively after Irene devastated its lines, and the town therefore suffered only sporadic outages during the snowstorm.
Sen. Scott Brown (R-MA) put his support behind the bill on Thursday. Brown has also been vocal about the outages, .
"Like most of my neighbors, I find it unacceptable that hundreds of thousands of people in Massachusetts remained without power so long after Saturday’s storm. The inadequate response from the utilities raises serious questions about their storm preparations and whether they had enough assets in place to deal with the problem as it was occurring. What’s at the heart of this issue is safety. We had power out in homes with young children, and seniors living alone, with temperatures dropping to freezing at night,” Brown said. “We need to put in place financial penalties for the utilities so they will allocate sufficient resources to preventing a recurrence of the problem."
The rebate bill is not the only effort Winslow is making to curb outages. He said he is drafting a model bylaw for towns to consider at town meeting.
That bylaw, he said, would create a condition in any easement, license or permission that no tree branches be allowed within four feet of power lines. He said the law would ensure property owners keep up with tree maintenance*, and said towns can move more quickly than the state to enact changes.
*Clarification/Correction: Winslow said the trimming costs in the proposed bylaw would be covered by utility companies, not individual property owners.