Newport leaders vow response on winter gas outage

Newport Mayor Jamie Bova is flanked by legislators and Gov. Gina Raimondo (right) in response to a report critical of National Grid in last January’s gas emergency. Photo by Steve Klamkin WPRO News

By Steve Klamkin WPRO News

Newport leaders met behind closed doors with Gov. Gina Raimondo Tuesday to plan a response to a scathing state report into the January gas outage in the Newport area that left thousands of residents without heat, in some cases for days.

Raimondo, Newport Mayor Jamie Bova and eight members of the Aquidneck Island legislative delegation emerged to say, they will back a remedy, which failed to pass in the in the last legislative session this spring, to hold utilities responsible with stiff fines for failing to adequately plan and respond to shortages and similar situations.

“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. That’s what people expect, pay for and deserve,” Raimondo told reporters after the meeting.

“The hardest thing I had to do during the gas outage was to look my constituents, my residents in the eye and tell them how limited the state is in its ability to hold National Grid accountable,” said Mayor Bova. “I’m still hearing from folks who have not been paid, and I share their frustration, and it is unacceptable.”

Newport Rep. Marvin Abney, the powerful Chairman of the House Finance Committee explained the failure to pass the proposed legislation, patterned after Massachusetts law, that levies fines of tens of thousands of dollars per day on utilities that fail to respond or plan for emergencies.

“The legislation was there, but there was no underlining (sic) report from my perspective, at least. Now we have that.”

Sen. Dawn Euer, an attorney, said that she is developing a Google form that residents will be able to use to document unreimbursed expenses.