NEWPORT, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo and a number of state lawmakers held a press briefing Tuesday to discuss the findings of the report released last week on the January natural gas outage on Aquidneck Island.
The outage left thousands of Newport and Middletown residents in the cold for about a week and forced many area businesses to close up shop.
“What happened last year in Newport was unacceptable and National Grid bears some of the responsibility for that because they weren’t prepared,” Raimondo said.
“Ratepayers in Rhode Island will not and should not have to bear the cost for their mistakes,” she added.
The investigation conducted by the R.I. Division of Public Utilities and Carriers identified three main causes: a spike in demand for natural gas, a power failure at National Grid’s liquified natural gas (LNG) storage and vaporization facility in Providence; and a malfunctioning valve at an Enbridge-owned meter station in Weymouth.
Noting that the public utility commissions in Massachusetts and New York have the power to issue fines in this type of situation, Raimondo called on the state legislature to give Rhode Island’s DPUC more power of penalty.
“If there was the same emergency that happened in both Massachusetts and Rhode Island — the Grid trucks are going to Massachusetts because they know they can be fined there,” she said.
Raimondo said she’s directed the DPUC to develop and enact a plan to make sure the state doesn’t experience a similar outage in the future.
“The people of Aquidneck Island — the people of Rhode Island — deserve affordable, reliable, resilient energy and electricity regardless of the temperature, regardless of the time of year,” she said. “That’s what people expect, pay for, and deserve.”
Raimondo also said she wanted to clarify that her frustration and disappointment with National Grid is directed at its management, not the men and women out in the field.
National Grid spokesman Ted Kresse declined to comment on Raimondo’s announcement. He instead referred to National Grid’s statement last week in which the utility company said it doesn’t agree with everything included in the DPUC’s report but it has been working to learn from the outage and make the recommended changes. Read the full statement here.