The transformer fire that plunged nearly the entirety of the Back Bay into darkness last week reveals how fragile our existence is and also how our lives can be altered dramatically in a matter of a few minutes.
It also revealed how unprepared all of us are for life without electricity and to what extent it affects our lives.
NSTAR, our electricity provider, has absolutely refused to take responsibility for the disruption of service to the many thousands of Back Bay resident whose lives were brought to a halt by the transformer fire.
NSTAR has also steadfastly refused to pay damages to Back Bay residents and businesses, who suffered costly losses due to the black out – this despite a call from Mayor Menino to do just that.
NSTAR said they would not be reimbursing residents or businesses for their losses which were substantial.
In this instance, we believe Mayor Menino is absolutely correct in asking NSTAR to pay something toward losses generated by the power outage, which, in some parts of Back Bay, was out for four days.
NSTAR is under no obligation to do so and has said it will fight any effort to be found liable for the transformer fire and the ensuing black plume of heavy smoke that settled throughout the Back Bay and which descended upon a territory as far away as Revere and Nahant.
What all of us can learn from this recent potentially catastrophic event is that the consumer ends up paying for it. Consumers are made to pay for it whether or not the power is there when it is needed.
We believe there is something inherently wrong with a utility that fails to take responsibility for its problems and then charges consumers to get back its cost of the outlays to return the neighborhood to normal.
We applaud the mayor’s effort to take NSTAR to task.
At least the mayor understands the degree to which people of this city and businesses suffer enormous losses when such total failure to deliver electricity on demand occurs.
NSTAR is a utility, and as such, there is an unwritten guarantee that users pay for electricity.
When the power is out and users are deprived of it, there must be some sort of equitable arrangement that does not make users liable for the utility’s problems.
We assume the utility is insured and that some reimbursement will go to the utility from an insurance company for its burned out transformers.
But what about police overtime, public works overtime, residents without electricity, and giant businesses literally put out of business for 24-48 hours?
We urge the mayor to go after NSTAR. He has nothing to lose. We all stand to gain.