NOTE: The following update was provide July 21, 2017 by Dylan Fernandes, State Representative for Falmouth, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket
As you know, our office has been working with the Attorney General's Office and others for the past several months on the issue of private utility lines and poles. Eversource has been asking the Department of Public Utilities for a rate hike and one of our strategies has been to use that request as a way to raise awareness of private lines/poles and demand that Eversource take them over. Over the past several months, I made this case to the Attorney General's Office and they are filing a three page brief today that calls on the DPU to request that Eversource "accelerate the transfer of ownership" of private lines/poles to the company.
This is a very good step forward in getting the chief law enforcement agency involved in this issue and we will continue to keep you updated on progress.
Please feel free to forward this information to anyone you know who is affected by private utility lines/poles. Enjoy your weekend!
Dylan Fernandes, State Representative for Falmouth, Martha's Vineyard & Nantucket
NOTE: The following information has been provided to the CIA. This issue will be discussed at the August 5 AGM:
Many homeowners living in Massachusetts are unaware that the power lines delivering their electricity are privately owned rather than owned by Eversource. As such, when the power line breaks, Eversource is obligated to determine where the break has occurred. If the break is on a private line they will respond with “ who is your electrician?”. Eversource owns the transformers, however, the lines are privately owned and the homeowners’ responsibility. Each break may cost an average of $5000 to $10000 for an underground repair. The responsibility for repair/ replacement is the homeowners. The crisis begins when the homeowners try to organize a repair/replacement with all the affected homeowners on the line without a pre- existing structure in which to coordinate efforts!
Many of these power lines are aging out. They were constructed 30-50 years ago. The average lifespan for an older trenched line (underground) is about 30 years. Many of these older lines were buried without conduit. Chappy was previously like the wild west! Often the lines were placed without regard to easements or boundaries. Therefore a straight replacement of an extended line becomes impossible if people don’t work together. Our line which services 21+ homes on Chappaquiddick is over 40 years old and has suffered 3 breaks. All of the homeowners on our line were completely unaware of this issue at that time. Subsequently, we formed a “not for profit Power Line Association” to handle repairs as well as save for the contingency of maintenance and replacement. We have shared our model free of charge with multiple communities on MV suffering with the same problem.
The problem with organizing is that most homeowners are unaware there is a problem until a break occurs. Realtors were unaware of this issue in the past. Those of us who purchased our homes decades ago had no idea of the issue. Eversource claims notifications have been sent out in the past, but I have never spoken to anyone who ever received notification. The Attorney General’s office has noted this irregularity as well. We believe a realtor is obligated to explain who owns the power line and is legally responsible to do so. Private ownership of an older line may put both the buyer or seller at risk for thousands of dollars or make the house potentially unsellable.
.Recently we replaced our 1/2 mile line at a cost of almost $200,000. There are many other communities on Chappy that are doing so currently or have done so in the past and many more that will be doing so over the next few years out of necessity. We are in touch with several other communities on Martha’s Vineyard that have faced the same issues of repair and replacement.
To gauge the extent of the problem on MV please refer to the included map on “MV Private Roads”. It is difficult to obtain information from Eversource. Living on a private road does not exactly correlate with being on a privately own electrical service, but it does increase the chances.
Eversource has little interest in maintaining an aging infrastructure or in replacing/owning the privately owned electric grid particularly when they can pass that cost completely to the community.
Eversource’s cost for installation is at least 3 x more expensive than retrenching privately. In fairness, it does involve more construction detail with line duplication etc. Eversource generally uses the replacement paradigm of a “Million Dollars a Mile” if they do the work.
They generally do not advertise their replacement as an option, preferring private ownership as better for their overhead and business model. They have expressed little interest in pursuing ownership of our line whether or not we bring the line up to their standards.
However, they still charge full price for delivery despite using privately owned lines to distribute their product.
The issue is not unique to Martha’s Vineyard but, applicable to anywhere in the Commonwealth where private developers constructed the electric grid. Dylan Fernades, our state rep, noted there were 10,000 private poles in the commonwealth. The number of consumers per pole is unknown but this probably represents several hundred thousand homes.
We have currently been working with our State Rep Dylan Fernandez and our State Senator Julian Cyr. Refer to the included email chain from Rep Fernandes.
We are not asking Eversource to retroactively reimburse us for our replacement costs. However, Eversource is using our infrastructure to fulfill their public utility mandate. They still charge full cost to us without compensation for using our infrastructure. We would add that the telephone companies / internet providers must pay Eversource a fee to use the electric poles for conveying their lines.
It is unfair to place the cost of infrastructure to the consumer without some fair compensation model. We would like to see Eversource take on full ownership of our lines or pay a monthly percentage fee for use of the line to deliver their product.
In our case, we chose a retrenchment of our line in certified conduit with an Eversource certified electrical contractor. The line is warrantied for 5 years by the contractor and rated for 50+ years by the manufacturer. Eversource required pre testing of the new line prior to going live. Admittedly, it does not fulfill their mandate for a duplicated circuit though it is unclear if any of Eversource’s older owned lines have that built in capability. Nonetheless, the financial liability for Eversource to assume a new line such as ours is negligible.
As per the email, The AG’s office has submitted a brief to the DPU requesting that Eversource accelerate the transfer of ownership of private lines. How or if this ever occurs is currently in the hands of our legislators/ AG’s office/DPU. Eversource is under some pressure as they have recently requested a 7% rate increase starting this January. It would be a $96 million increase supposedly for infrastructure. We presented our concerns at the DPU forum early this Spring on MV. The AG’s office is against the rate increase.
If the legislative process is ineffective, we have received interest from several legal firms interested in pursuing a class action suit.
What can you do?
- Find out if you are on a private line. Call Eversource Energy, Right of Way Dept. Eversource - Jessica Elder - 508-790-9022.
- If you are on a private line, Send letter to Eversource requesting them to take over your line. It will most likely be rejected but Rep Fernandez requested that we formally do so. Send to Eversource Energy, Attn: B Lord, 247 Station Drive SW330, Westwood, Ma 02090
- Each homeowner on a private electrical service should email to Rep Dylan Fernandes/ Kayla Moore. The more people aware, the greater the momentum for change. email@example.com firstname.lastname@example.org
Rogers Road Power Line