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Irene could revive Mass. bill on local utilities

By Associated Press
Saturday, September 10, 2011
Unhappiness with how Massachusetts utilities responded to Irene-caused power outages has revived interest in legislation that makes creating municipal electric utilities easier.

The Boston Globe reports proponents think Irene could finally prompt action on the bill. The storm knocked out power to hundreds of thousands statewide, and many were in the dark for days. Supporters say municipal utilities would give local officials more control in an emergency.

The state hasn’t had a new municipal utility since the 1920s. One obstacle is communities must purchase power infrastructure from utilities that have no incentive to sell to a new competitor.

The bill would give state regulators more authority to set prices and require sales.

Utilities question whether a community agency can better serve customers. They also say they’re concerned regulators would set unfair prices for their assets.

© Copyright 2011 Associated Press.